WAACNewsletter
Volume 19, Number 1 .... January 1997

WAAC Annual Meeting: Presentation Summaries

The 1996 WAAC Annual Meeting was held Oct. 5-9 at Las Vegas, Nevada. The papers from the meeting are listed below along with summaries prepared by the speakers.


"Passing the Hat (Mask)" How Computer Documentation Facilitated the Successive Treatment of a Ptolemaic Cartonnage Mummy Mask by Two Conservators

Susan Lansing Maish and Julie Unruh

The Antiquities Conservation department of the J. Paul Getty Museum was asked to treat a cartonnage mummy mask belonging to the collection of the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose, California. It had been severely damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. It was known from the start that two conservators were to work on the mask in succession. With that in mind, a recently installed imaging system was used as a way to facilitate the passing of the project from one conservator to another.

The mask was extremely fragile with flaking pigment and gesso, surface cracking and losses, and crumbling previous repairs. Initial treatment included consolidation of flaking surfaces, stabilization of the mask, and removal of old adhesive and repair material. Because of the succession of conservators working on this mask, a way to leave a map of what and where treatments were applied was necessary.

While working on the mask, quick notes were made on plastic overlays over B/W photos of the mask. Later the black and white photos were scanned. Then using the Adobe Photo-shop software, precise and clear color overlays and text were added to the image. After printing using a Fujix pictography 3000 Digital Image Printer the annotated prints were added to the mask's file.

Multiple copies were easily made as well for the Rosicrucian Museum. This method of documentation greatly enhanced the black and white documentation and was a great asset in keeping track of the treatment process.

The second stage of treatment included humidification and reshaping of distorted cartonnage, reinforcement of weakened sections of the mask, removal of remaining old repairs, and filling and inpainting losses. Treatment was recorded on scanned photos in Adobe Photo-shop. All information is stored on CDs.


Defying the Law of Gravity: The Treatment of Georg Herold's The Bow

Ria German

Contemporary German artist Georg Herold creates artworks from various media, conveying a sense of precarious balance, humor and reference to events in the social, political and art world.

This paper concentrates on research conducted on this artist, and the subsequent interview (June 1995) in the artist's studio in Köln Germany, funded by the Getty Foundation and the NEA at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Regarding the use of materials such as caviar on paper and various fabrics, bricks attached to canvas with epoxy, and electroplated metals on canvas, the conservator might assume that the artist would be unconcerned with the ultimate longevity of his works.

It was surprising to find that Herold shared many of the conservator's concerns (such as relative humidity, temperature, pest control and ultimately the preservation of the work as it was originally manufactured). As more contemporary artists are interviewed regarding their techniques and views on the condition and appearance of their artworks, it becomes clear that we as conservators cannot predict artist's opinions, based solely on their work.

The treatment of Herold's brick and epoxy on canvas piece, entitled The Bow, will be discussed as an example of inherent vice, and problematic treatments often encountered in the conservation of modern and contemporary artworks. The collaboration between the conservator and artist in this treatment, and issues relating to intervention will also be addressed in the context of the conservator's ethics.


The Examination of Mexican Master Paintings from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection

Paula De Cristofaro

The Natasha and Jacques Gelman collection of 20th century Mexican Art was exhibited to a North American audience for the first time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art this past spring and summer, 1996. The collection had not been shown outside of Mexico prior to this exhibition and extensive preparation of the artworks (paintings and works on paper) was undertaken prior to travel.

Members of the paintings and paper conservation staff of the SFMOMA were fortunate to travel to the Gelman residences in Mexico City and Cuernavaca (where the paintings are kept) to condition the paintings and insure that their housings were appropriate for extended travel. The SFMOMA staff took advantage of this unique opportunity to study the collection and to investigate the techniques of such masters as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, with the assistance of a team of Mexican conservators and staff from the host institution,the Centro Cultural in Mexico City.

This presentation will report on observations the SFMOMA staff made while working with the Gelman collection, with comparisons made to works by 20th century Mexican artists in the permanent collection of the SFMOMA.


" 'Woodn't' (sic) It Be Luverly... (with apologies to My Fair Lady)"

Margaret (Meg) Geiss-Mooney

Wood or wood-based products have been used for centuries in mounting and displaying historic textiles. This conservator has looked for and found some alternatives that are more durable and do not have inherent vice problems, such as a lignin content, an acidic/alkaline nature, and/or the possibility of off-gassing.


Ancient Maya Monumental Painted Stucco Sculpture: Characterization and Conservation

Eric F. Hansen

In ancient Mesoamerica, the use of stuccos, plasters and mortars made from the burning of limestone was ubiquitous. A method has been developed to identify technological styles (patterned technological behaviors) in the production and use of burnt-lime products using optical microscopy and image analysis of petrographic thin sections and paint cross sections, supplemented by instrumental analyses.

This method is being applied to samples dating to the Middle (800 - 300 B.C.) and Late Preclassic (300 B.C. - 300 A.D.) from the ancient Maya site of Nakbe, Petén, Guatemala where archaeological detection of lime-stucco applications to early walls and floors points to the sociopolitical, economic and technological innovations in the first "florescence" of Maya civilization.

Initial results have shown chronological patterns in specific stucco production techniques for floors, walls and sculpture, along with the innovative use of organic colorants in architectural paint.

The inherent problems associated with the conservation of ancient Maya monumental painted stucco sculpture in an isolated area of a sub-tropical forest are discussed, with particular emphasis on the presence of previously unknown and possibly fugitive organic colorants and on the lack of adequate consolidation or protection treatments for the different types of stucco encountered.


Conservation of the Charles Holloway Murals in the Allen County Courthouse, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Debra Selden

The Allen County Courthouse is an artistic and architectural treasure. According to Richard Murray, Senior Curator of the Smithsonian Institution, NMAA, "The Allen County Courthouse is among the very finest 'Beaux-Arts' style of public buildings in the nation." Among its notable features are the uniquely designed floor tiles, extensive decorative painting with gold leaf, imported marble utilized on staircases and walls, natural lighting designs and use of art glass scagliola, and most outstanding, the allegorical murals painted by Charles Holloway.

This presentation reviews the building's history from an art conservation perspective and provides an overview of the ongoing mural conservation by Perry Huston and Associates.


Gas Chromatographic Investigations of Organic Materials in Art Objects

Herant P. Khanjian and Michael R. Schilling

Reliable identification of organic media, used in objects of art, is not only an important element in the conservation process but also in understanding of artists' techniques and historical treatment of objects. Paintings from various periods have been analyzed, for presence of binding media, using recently developed gas chromatographic procedures.

The effects of pigment and physical aging on the composition of proteinaceous and oil media have been studied. Proteinaceous media identification is based on the composition of "stable" amino acids. Mathematical treatment of analysis data from reference paint samples facilitated the elucidation of the binary media.

Identification of oil media was based on the derivatives of fatty acids and glycerol. New evidence indicates that saturated fatty acids are more susceptible to degradation than previously thought.


Carpet Damage from Routine Maintenance Procedures

Stan Derelian

Carpets in institutional settings, even those inaccessible to the public, are often unintentionally subjected to a significant degree of damaging treatment by untrained or poorly supervised maintenance personnel. Dust mops, cleaning chemicals, and various floor maintenance machines are particularly troublesome.

It seems to be a problem most often in settings where carpets are incidental to the main subject of an exhibition, and where they are on display over a long period of time. The damage accrues slowly, and is seldom recognized while it is happening, becoming obvious only years later. This presentation gives an example, and discusses possible remedies. (See page 11 for further discussion.)


Process & Materials Used in the Production of Desk Top Computer-generated Documents

Eleanore Stewart and Kathleen Orlenko

The prevalent desktop computer printing technologies today are ink jet, laser, and dye sublimation. The authors have reviewed current scientific and business literature to present a description of each process, including ink formulations, paper requirements, and permanence data.


Archaeological Textiles and The Case for Collection Management or If You Can't Beat 'em Join 'em

Vicki Cassman

Conservation outreach has only very slowly seeped into the field of archaeology. Archaeologists often complain the small amount of funding for excavation does not stretch to cover conservation too. In the Atacama Desert of South America, 10,000 years of organic materials are well preserved, but for archaeologists the use of organic materials is plagued with problems.

First, there is no precedent for the use of organics, especially textiles, for solving anything but culture-historic problems (such as chronology); second, there are few archaeologists trained in their analysis; and third, organic materials require special and continued curation.

In order to conserve the maximum number of pre-Columbian textiles from this area it was necessary to do by example. Hence, my dissertation on Prehistoric Andean Ethnicity and Status: The Textile evidence.

This research using textiles associated with 592 mummies from three sites (AZ-140, AZ-71 and PLM-9) in Arica, Chile has allowed a reevaluation of social organization during the Late Intermediate Period (A.D. 1000-1425) and will demonstrate that textiles are a sensitive analytical tool deserving of more respect.


Conserving a Thousand Points of Light

Beverly Perkins

Henry Francis Dupont envisioned points of light throughout the period rooms at Winterthur Museum. During the thirties, period light fixtures were collected and wired for electric candles. The light fixtures range from early American candlesticks to pre-industrial oil lamps. An ongoing project at Winterthur involves conserving, rewiring, and providing a new type of candle for one thousand light fixtures.


"And I Still Can See Blue Velvet Through My Tears..."

Dr. Duane R. Chartier and Susanne Friend

The use of velvet as a support for painting has predated Elvis for hundreds of years. Painting on white or light colored velvet was practiced in the early 19th century with gouache and oil. In the mid 20th century paintings on black velvet had their heyday and are most closely associated with velvet painting today. Conservators are faced with an enormous challenge in dealing with these fragile works of art. The delicacy and textural importance of the substrate of paintings on velvet precludes most traditional conservation interventions. Of those that remain, many of them use sharp objects.


Mad About MAD©

Grant Geissman

Grant Geissman, considered one of the world's experts on the art and ephemera of MAD© Magazine, will speak on the art and artists of this cultural icon known for its biting satirization of all aspects of American culture. Mr. Geissman is the author of the definitive book on MAD© Magazine, as well as the definitive collector of related artwork and ephemera, and will speak both as a historian and collector.


Robert Graham's Olympic Gateway: Conservation and Long Term Maintenance Planning

John Griswold and Leslie Rainer

In August, 1995, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) was contacted by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission regarding the sculpture, Olympic Gateway, by artist Robert Graham. Created for the 1984 Olympic Games, it stands at the east entrance of the Coliseum. After twelve years, it had suffered from abuse by the public and had been regularly desecrated by seagulls.

Because of the problems of accessibility due to its height and the configuration of its double base and platforms, frequent, routine simple cleaning was impossible. Instead, periodic efforts were made by coliseum staff and the artist's assistant to clean the bronze male and female torsos as the events schedule and attack by vandals required. After what little funding available for its maintenance had been eliminated by budget cuts, the Director's office of the GCI stepped in to help the important Los Angeles landmark.

In response to a request for funding of a proposal by a contractor to perform restoration, Neville Agnew and Leslie Rainer of GCI performed a preliminary inspection of the monument. The proposal was considered overly aggressive, and a sculpture conservator was brought in to design and perform a treatment and to develop the foundation of a Long Range Maintenance Plan. John Griswold of Wharton and Griswold Associates was hired as the consulting conservator.

The treatment was designed in two phases, and included a complete condition assessment and full documentation, removal of previous coatings (including India ink), implementation of a bird deterrence system, removal of graffiti, local removal of corrosion, minimal repatination of local areas, and hot wax application. The conservator also supervised a subcontractor in the replacement of the damaged granite veneer on the base of the Gateway. Recommendations for cyclic main- tenance were made in the final report, in the context of an outline for a 25 year plan for the care of the monument.


The Conservation and Restoration of the Astoria Column, Astoria, Oregon

Frank Preusser and J. Claire Dean

Over the summer of 1995, the 125 foot tall "Astoria Column", Astoria, Oregon, received its first major restoration since 1936. Built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1926 to mark the end of their rail line, the poured concrete column stands on the top of a hill above the town of Astoria, exposed to all the extremes of the local weather.

The architectural design of the Astoria Column is unapologetically modeled directly after the Column of Trajan, Rome. However, rather than using sculpted panels, the Astoria Column's surface is decorated with a spiraling frieze, executed in a modified "sgraffito" technique, depicting the history of the local area from precontact to the coming of the railroad. Due to a combination of inherent problems with the column and mural's original construction, its exposed location, and previous restoration and maintenance work, the mural had deteriorated severely and suffered extensive erosion and loss.

The 1995 conservation and restoration project was carried out by an team of conservation scientists, conservators, interns, professional mural painters and local artists and craftsmen. Funded entirely by monies raised from the local community and businesses, the project involved the surface consolidation of the column, restoration of the 4000 square feet of mural, weatherproofing of the surface, and the structural restoration of the cupola that caps the column.The Astoria Column restoration project represents an excellent example of a large scale project with all the logistical and technical problems normally associated with such undertakings. It also represents the conservation of a unique historic monument using a multi-disciplined team of people and the successful involvement and enthusiastic reception of the local community.


Conservation of The Rose by Jay De Feo

Thornton Rockwell, Niccolo Caldararo, and Anne Rosenthal

This massive work, weighing over one ton, is essentially a sculptural relief in oil paint. Some of the problems the conservators confronted in this treatment may be unique in the history of art conservation. The contribution of several conservation colleagues, structural and aeronautical engineers, experts in art handling, paint technology, ultrasound, x-radiography, epoxy and Fiberglas fabrication, made for a truly collaborative effort. This presentation will be made by Niccolo Caldararo, Tony Rockwell, and Anne Rosenthal, the conservators in charge of the project.


How Should It Look? Conserving Historic American Indian Silver of the Southwest

Landis Smith

Conditions observed in Navajo and Pueblo Indian silverwork of the historic period provide evidence of intriguing histories of technologies and materials. Early smiths produced finely crafted objects with the most limited and rudimentary of tools, the aesthetic of the objects evolving through time with technological mastery, the acquisition of new tools, changing silver sources, and cultural milieu. The histories of individual silversmiths provide guides to understanding the artist's intent within the aesthetic conventions and contexts in which he/she worked. At the Mus. of Indian Arts and Anthropology in Santa Fe, decisions regarding methods and extent of cleaning/polishing for any given object have been based on such factors as individual techniques, alloy compositions, use/wear patterns, the influence of the marketplace, Native aesthetic perspectives and exhibit context. Specific cleaning techniques will be described in light of these considerations.


From the Twilight Zone:Odd Reactions Observed in Works on Paper

Anita Noennig

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of modern additives to paper. I have noted over the years some phenomena common to prints that were executed on commercial papers rather than the more typical papers formulated for artists such as Rives or Arches.

The choice to use commercial papers is often simply one of economics: commercial papers are cheaper than art papers. In dealing with damage to prints on these papers I have noted: early encounters with optical brighteners: formation of blue 'tidelines' after use of alcohol or acetone; papers that develop a pink tone when alkalized; greenish or browned color shifts after alkalizing.

In the case of San Francisco Bay Area poster artist, David Lance Goines, the choice of commercial paper is driven by performance. He is looking for these specific characteristics: dimentional stability through numerous press runs (offset lithography); increased opacity; prevention of "picking" (a loss of fibers and ink pulled up by a later run); optical brightness.

I will briefly outline the manufacturer's response to how these specifications are accomplished by Monadnoch Astro Lite, the paper that Goines is currently using.


New Lighting Recommended Practice Guidelines

Daniel Howell

The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America has a new publication on lighting for museums, art galleries and fine art. Design guidelines, light damage to museum exhibits, typical lighting problems, architectural aspects and daylight, light sources, luminaries, light controls, control of glare, measurements and measuring instruments, lighting computations, and maintenance and budgets are discussed.


Death to COOL WHITE! Major Changes in Lighting!

Daniel Howell

The Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated labeling and/or minimum efficiencies of lamps (light bulbs). This law means critical changes for the conservator.

Old lamps have been discontinued and new lamps with better color rendering, longer life and energy savings have been approved. Presentation will include discussion and handouts.


A Conservation Survey as Collection Management Tool: An Introduction to the South Asian Paintings Collection of the San Diego Museum of Art

Laura Downey and Janet Ruggles

In 1993, the Paper Conservation Department of the Balboa Art Conservation Center began a condition survey of the collection of South Asian Paintings belonging to the San Diego Museum of Art. This paper will give a brief overview of the collection and its history, describe the survey and its immediate results, and its use in subsequent and ongoing conservation of the collection.


Ponds and Pictographs: The Conservation of Pictograph Cave, Billings, Montana

J. Claire Dean

Pictograph Cave near Billings, Montana, is a large rock shelter naturally cut into the face of a massive sandstone outcrop located within what is now a State Park. The rear wall of the cave carries more than 200 pictographs ranging in age from ancient to historic. Excavations in 1937, revealed that the cave had been used by various peopnes for thousands of years, probably as a seasonal hunting camp. The cave continues to be used as a sacred site by Native Americans, especially the Crow.

In recent years it had been noticed that the pictographs appeared to be "fading" and were rapidly becoming illegible, and that the rear wall was eroding and collapsing below the area of pictographs. The reasons for this deterioration were not obviously apparent.

In 1992, a condition survey of the site found that the construction of a stock pond on the land directly over the top of the cave may be the source of a mineral deposit which had been forming over the cave wall surface, thus obscuring the pictographs. In addition this excess moisture may also be contributing to the collapse of the lower areas of the wall left exposed by the 1937 excavations. The relatively recent increase in the deterioration of the site seems to be due to the combined impacts of various types of contemporary land use and other human activity.

Work aimed at conserving Pictograph Cave has been continuing since 1992 and includes the combined efforts of conservators, hydro-geologists, park staff, the local Native American community, rock art researchers and archaeologists. Studies and direct actions at the site culminate this year with the first attempts to find a method to safely remove the mineral deposits and allow the pictographs to once again be viewed by visitors, and additional studies to further stabilize the wall. This paper offers an outline of the problems at Pictograph Cave, the actions taken so far to stabilize conditions at the site, and a review of this year's research into methods to remove the mineral deposits.


Conservation on Target

Chris Stavroudis

The treatment of Jasper Johns' "Target with Plaster Casts", 1955, will be the topic of this presentation. The painting suffered from extensive cracking and incipient cleavage of the encaustic paint layer due to mechanical instability othe canvas layer. The stretcher bars were inadequate to support the canvas and as a consequence, the canvas was free to flap forwards and backwards. The motion of the support and the presence of newsprint between layers of encaustic contributed to the cracking of the brittle paint layer.

The treatment of the painting consisted of providing mechanical support to the canvas by inserting a segmented GatorFoam panel between the canvas and stretcher and adding cross members to the original stretcher. The painting was not removed from the stretcher in the treatment. Areas of flaking paint were consolidated with dilute Beva D-8 dispersion. The minor losses were inpainted with a paste of Aquazol 50, fumed silica and watercolor.

Treatment of the painted plaster casts incorporated into the frame included reattaching a recovered flake of paint with Butvar B-73, filling losses with B-73 and glass microballoons, and inpainting with the Aquazol based paint.


Soot as an Indigenous Pigment. An Example Derived from an Ethnographic Account of a Chumash/Kitanemuk Soot Collector and Some Comparisons from other Cultures

Mitchell Hearns Bishop

The presence of soot in archaeological contexts in Mesoamerica has been construed as evidence of warfare. It could also be construed as evidence or ritual burning of resins (copal) or deliberate destruction by fire. Of particular interest is the identification of soot (flame carbons) as a black pigment as opposed to charcoal (chars), and how analytical methods might be extended beyond identifying soot or charcoal as a pigment in inks or paints to identifying the source of blackened areas of architecture; i.e., painting versus ritual defacement through fire or accumulation of smoke through ritual burning of incense.

The black pigment used to outline iconographic elements by the Late Preclassic Ancient Maya in northern Guatemala has previously been attributed to charcoal as a source. However, ethnographic analogies in the New World indicate soot has also been used as a black pigment by indigenous peoples in America. An ethnohistoric account of a Chumash/Kitanemuk soot collector recorded by John P. Harrington was studied and a recreation attempted. Soot was gathered from the recreated soot collector and deposited on some plaster samples to compare with archaeological samples bearing soot deposits. Soot manufacture for use as a pigment in other cultures is examined and the different materials used to produce soot are also described. The pitfalls of experimental archaeology and cultural limitations in interpreting ethnographic accounts are also considered.


TASS Window Posters: Russian Propaganda from Word War II

Karen Zukor

During World War II, the USSR produced a series of propaganda posters, issued by TASS, the newspaper arm of the government. They were issued on a daily basis, numbered accordingly, and displayed in the ground floor windows of the news agency's Moscow office, (hence the name TASS window posters). Paper was scarce and the quality quite poor, but some of the more well-known artists of the period designed for them, however crudely. These posters were compilations of sheets of paper, with some occasional lithography and screenprinted texts; most of the images were handpainted and are thus rare. A collection of sixty of these posters is currently undergoing treatment for cleaning, flattening, lining and encapsulation. They range in size from approximately 3' x 5' to over 4' x 6', and arrived at the studio folded up to a 9" x 14" format.


Faktura - Topography of a Painting. Experimental Painting of Lubov Popova,1912-1924

Aneta Zebala

Lubov Popova wrote in a questionnaire: "In 1914 I was already working independently and exhibited my work... My Cubist period (the problem of form) was followed by a Futurist period (the problem of movement and color), and the principle of abstracting the parts of an object was followed... by the problem of the construction of form and line (post-Cubism) and of colour (Suprematism)". This study attempts to follow Popova's rapidly evolving and changing styles by examining her use of materials, changing techniques, and textural surface features called faktura. Faktura was, for Popova, the essence of the painterly surface.

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