WAACNewsletter
January 1998 Volume 20 Number 1

WAAC Annual Meeting: Presentation Summaries

The 1997 WAAC Annual Meeting was held Oct. 26-29 at Phoenix, Arizona. The papers from the meting are listed below along with summaries prepared by the speakers.

Conservation through Management: New Approaches to Preserving Rock Art

Nicholas Stanley Price

The conservation of rock art surfaces has benefited from advances in the treatment of other decorative stone surfaces such as sculpture and wall paintings. It is, however, unique in that most conservation treatment for rock art has been concerned with the direct effects of human action rather than the environment. These take the form of both willful damage and the negative impact of visitors.

The paper will review some examples of attempts to alleviate this problem by means of indirect site management techniques rather than through remedial treatment. It will describe projects from the Americas and Europe that aim to preserve rock art sites while also making them accessible to the public.


The Role of Natural Coatings in the Preservation of Rock Surfaces

Ron Dorn

Natural rock coatings are ubiquitous in the terrestrial weathering environment. Relatively little is known, however, about their role in stabilizing rock faces. The predominant perspective is that rock coatings can "case harden" the rock, inhibiting erosion. Fewer individuals argue that rock coatings enhance net rates of erosion. The purpose of this talk is to introduce the audience to the variety of rock coatings that may play a role in induration, and to explore some of the uncertainties.


Petroglyphs on the Hopi Reservation

Gerald Dawaventewa

Observations and remarks about petroglyphs on and around the Hopi Reservation in northern Arizona, and protection and preservation of them.


Pictographs, Petroglyphs, and the Conservator: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Claire Dean

An outline of the problems and challenges of working with this extraordinary cultural resource. Such topics as the practicalities of working onsite without conventional conservation lab support will be addressed, as well as the need to work cooperatively with the many other specialists involved in the research, management and preservation of rock art sites.


South Mountain Rock Art and Graffiti: A Case Study in the Realities of Conservation and Management

Todd Bostwick

In an urban setting such as Phoenix, there are many challenges to the preservation of rock art. Those challenges include technical issues, management practices, and conservation attitudes. This paper discusses a graffiti incident involving rock art in South Mountain Park, the constraints in addressing that graffiti problem, and the results of an experiment in removing the graffiti.


Inpainting Scratched Graffiti: Ongoing Field Research

John Griswold

Petroglyphs are often made by mechanical removal of a darkened surface layer of rock, exposing the lighter substrate. This type of petroglyph is typical throughout the southwestern U.S., where basalt outcroppings and boulders develop a rich, dark brownish-purple coloration after millennia of exposure. This "desert varnish" layer is extremely thin, and can easily be gouged, pecked or scratched with a stone implement, leaving a light colored contrasting mark. This contrast between the surface "desert varnish" and the stone still remains after many hundreds of years, indicating the extremely slow rate at which the darker color develops. Unfortunately, the same holds true for graffiti scratched or pecked into the rock. Examples from decades ago still look as if they had been made yesterday.

Various attempts have been made to hide scratched graffiti by well meaning custodians, with unsatisfactory results. Dry pigments have been rubbed into the scratches; paint has been applied either carefully within the lines or over the general area; chemical solutions have been developed and marketed that purport to replace the missing "desert varnish." Extreme environmental conditions quickly alter and damage any applied paint, and the uncontrolled reaction of the chemical solutions have resulted in darkening and discoloration of the general area. Other issues such as contamination of petroglyph and pictograph surfaces with organic materials that can skew analytical results are also an important concern.

This paper presents ongoing field research to identify an inorganic paint system suitable for inpainting scratched graffiti in the immediate vicinity of rock art. Long term exposure tests are being conducted at Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM, by John Griswold and J. Claire Dean. The observations made are applicable to a wider range of conservation applications on outdoor stone monuments.


Evaluation of Soluble Salt Content in Soils: Preliminary Results from Three Archaeological Sites in Turkey

Jessica S. Johnson, Scott Carroll, and Donna Strahan

Soluble salts in the burial environment are one of the main reasons for the deterioration of archaeological artifacts. This relationship between artifact deterioration and properties of sediments has not been sufficiently studied. This paper will describe a cooperative project between conservators from three sites in Turkey (Gordion, Kaman Kalehöyük, and Troy) to examine how soluble salts are distributed throughout the deposits on a site. A standardized field testing procedure will be described. Preliminary results from the 1997 field season will compare similarities and differences among the three sites. How the state of preservation before and after excavation may be linked to salts, and how these results might be used to identify problems and simplify field treatments will be discussed, as well as areas for further research.


Rock Art Site Management on Federal Property

Marietta Wetherill Eaton

A discussion of rock art site management and preservation.


Varnishing Brushes

Monica Jaworski

A good varnishing brush is an essential tool for most conservators. The type of hair or bristle and shape or structure of the brush combine to form very specific working properties.

The paper will be presented in two sections: 1. A description of bristles and hair (both natural and synthetic) used for varnishing brushes and their physical properties. 2. An overview of brush structures or shapes and their working properties.


Testing the System: Digital Recording of the Condition of America Tropical, a Mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros

Leslie H. Rainer and Gaetano Palumbo

The Getty Conservation Institute, in collaboration with El Pueblo Historic Park of Los Angeles, is carrying out a project for the conservation of David Alfaro Siqueiros's mural, America Tropical, in downtown Los Angeles. The mural, painted in 1932, is painted on an exterior second story wall of the Italian Hall on Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historic Park, in downtown Los Angeles and measures 5.4 meters by 24 meters. It depicts a crucified Indian figure on a double cross surmounted by the American eagle with soldiers pointing guns at him, in a tropical landscape with preColumbian ruins. Due to its politically controversial content, the mural was whitewashed, then left exposed to the elements over the next several decades. Since the 1970s, there has been an interest in the mural's preservation, and it is now covered by a protective shelter. However, due to the long neglect and the damages of time, today the mural is but a faded image of the past.

The project consists of documentation, treatment to the mural, the construction of a protective shelter, and an exhibit of Siqueiros's life and work. Since GCI's involvement, preliminary scientific study of the mural was carried out in 1988, including materials analysis of the paint and plaster. In 1990, a first phase of conservation treatment took place, led by Agustin Espinosa, a GCI consultant from Mexico. This treatment included the stabilization of the mural, reattachment of loose plaster, cleaning, and surface consolidation. In 1993, a digital image capture was done by Eric Lange, Fellow, GCI Documentation Program. His work consisted of designing a precise digital system of image capture which could then be manipulated for a number of computerized documentation purposes.

In spring 1997, GCI conservators conducted a condition survey of the mural in preparation for the construction of the shelter and viewing platform. A customized AutoCAD program was used, which allowed the conservators to examine the mural and enter data directly into laptop computers on site using a mosaiced digital image of the mural as a base for graphic documentation. The menu customization, produced by Giancarlo Buzzanca (Istituto Centrale di Restauro, Rome, Italy), facilitated data entry, and conservators unfamiliar with the use of AutoCAD were operative after a short training period. Direct entry of information into the computer on site ensured complete control of the process by the conservators, more accuracy, and the elimination of long, expensive, and error prone procedures of copying manually produced entries into electronic condition surveys.

The condition survey served the following purposes: to provide a baseline record of the mural's condition in 1997; to record, to the extent possible, treatment carried out in 1990; to assess the condition of the mural in order to plan for final phase treatment; and to record the condition of the mural prior to construction of the shelter in the event of any inadvertent damage during the work.

The paper will present the use of a customized AutoCAD program for condition recording and the results of the condition survey.


The Japanese Textile Collection at Taliesin West

Penny Fowler

Frank Lloyd Wright's appreciation, understanding, and admiration for "things Japanese" began in the late 19th century. His first exposure to Japanese prints and other Japanese "orientalia" may well have been through his first employer, Joseph Lyman Silsbee, in 1867. Silsbee was related to Ernest Fenalossa, who was an advocate of Japanese art and curator of Oriental art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In 1893, the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition provided Midwesterners with their first experience of Japanese art and architecture. By order of the Japanese emperor, one of this country's first examples of authentic Japanese architecture, the Ho-O-Den (or Phoenix Hall) was erected on a 16-acre "wooded island" in the center of the huge lagoon. Architectural styles of the 12th, 16th, and 18th centuries were represented. Indicative of the specific periods, the interiors were resplendent with examples of many decorative objects, including silks and brocades.

In 1905, Wright traveled to Japan for the first time. Purportedly, the trip was "a respite" from his work. He later admitted that he had gone in "pursuit of the print." In addition to purchasing enough ukiyo-e prints to mount the first exhibition of Japanese prints held at the Art Institute of Chicago, he collected a variety of Japanese textiles.

Owing to Wright's appreciation of "quiet" beauty, we have in our collection examples of Japan's textile arts from one of the richest eras of both design and decorative techniques. They date from the 17th to the 19th century and were made for women of the aristocracy, the upper echelons of the military class, the wives and daughters of the wealthy merchants or for courtesans.

In addition to the historical significance and rarity of the garments and textile fragments is the fact that research indicates the probable relationship between Mr. Wright and a very important textile dealer in Japan, Shojiro Nomura. My presentation will include visuals illustrating that Mr. Wright respected their value as art objects, thought of them as a design resource and incorporated them into his environment.


Shifting the Conservation Paradigm: Field Education Programs and Why They Succeed

Helen Alten

In the past few years, a new conservation discipline, "field education," has emerged. It is becoming the hot new job in our field, with regional laboratories vying to begin programs. The oldest successful programs come from the library and archives conservation fields. There, faced with enormous collections requiring immediate care, the conservators quickly developed preservation guidelines, literature and training programs.

Canada, with a central conservation laboratory, also developed a strong education program for its smaller museums. In the United States, the National Park Service has provided some central information. Now, regional art laboratories have started or plan to start field education programs. The AIC has an Outreach Lunch. Some state institutions are beginning regional conservation education programs, too. This paper will explore what a field education program is and isn't, whether it can be cost effective or not, how to streamline operations, and how field education challenges the conservation community to readdress and re-assess conservation in the United States.


Developing a Maintenance Plan for Outdoor Totem Poles (That May Work for Other Wood Sculptures)

Helen Alten

Maintaining totem pole collections in Alaska's rigorous environment involved using traditional and nontraditional wood preservation techniques. A number of methods have been used over the years, including work done by the National Park Service, the Alaska State Museum and Native carvers.

The Alaska State Museum began a coating test nearly 15 years ago to see how treatments aged. Carvers are experimenting with pretreating logs with polyethylene glycol. Owners are developing a variety of maintenance methods, some more useful than others. This paper will provide a synopsis of past work and provide an outline of a proposed maintenance plan for outdoor totem poles. It will discuss the environmental, cultural, and physical parameters involved in totem pole preservation.


Status Report on the Spot Test Directory for Materials Characterization

Nancy Odegaard, Scott Carroll, and Werner Zimmt

Conservators and other researchers are often asked to characterize the material nature of artifacts, accretions or deposits, contextual materials, and environmental conditions. Spot tests have been used and are valuable for interpreting the significant cultural, technological, and preservation aspects of artifacts. Spot tests are particularly useful to many conservators because they do not require expensive instruments or specialists. Unfortunately, there is no standard directory of spot tests for a wide range of artifacts. The conservation lab at the Arizona State Museum has developed straightforward procedures, replicated the tests on artifact type materials, photodocumented the reactions, and compiled them into a directory format. This presentation will illustrate the results of the project.


The Role of the Conservator in the Design of Public Art

Glenn Wharton

The design and installation of public art has always been a collaborative process. Conservators and other specialists with an understanding of conservation concerns can play a valuable role in this collaboration. Conservators may review specifications, anticipate environmental interaction, and assist in site preparation. This presentation will review the design process of public art, and use illustrations of how conservators may play a role in planning for longevity and future maintenance.


Tour of City of Phoenix Art

Greg Esser

The art collection of the City of Phoenix includes more than 850 portable works including prints, paintings, Native American crafts, and photographs; historic bronze monuments, and more than fifty contemporary works commissioned through the Percent for Art Program. The contemporary works include bronze, stone, mosaic, painted steel and other traditional materials as well as permanent interactive video installations, plastics, kinetic light sculptures, holographic glass, and adobe.

The tour will address some of the conservation challenges that are faced by a modern urban city government developing an evolving collection of contemporary artworks. Tour highlights will include:

The Solid Waste Management Facility, a ground breaking design collaboration with artists Michael Singer and Linnea Glatt working with the engineering firm of Black and Veatch.

Our Shared Environment, by Arizona artist Marilyn Zwak, which includes application of adobe and artifacts on a freeway wall.

Papago Park/City Boundary Project, by Jody Pinto and Steve Martino (landscape architect).

Ruins of Light, an interactive video installation by Jim Campbell, and ElectroSymbio Phonics for Phoenix by Nam June Paik.

Some participants may want to conclude the tour with a brief onsite overview of the public art collection and portable works housed at Sky Harbor International Airport.

Tour will be led by conservator Glenn Wharton of Wharton Griswold Associates, Inc. and Greg Esser, Public Art Program Manager for the City of Phoenix, Phoenix Arts Commission.


The Recovery of Charles Kassler's Pastoral California: Conservation and Reconstruction of a WPA Fresco in Fullerton, California

Susanne Friend

The WPA period witnessed a minor revival of fresco, especially in California and Chicago where the influence of the Mexican muralists was greatest. Charles Kassler, Jr., was a Denver artist who had studied fresco technique in Europe and had experimented with attempts to prolong the drying time of plaster.

He received two important commissions in Southern California in the early 1930s: The Bison Hunt in the Los Angeles Public Library (destroyed) and Pastoral California on the auditorium of the Fullerton Union High School.

Pastoral California was poorly received by the community and the school board voted to paint over it only 6 years after it was created in 1934. The painting was almost forgotten, until, in the early 1970s, a search for information on the mural located copies of the original cartoons in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The image of what could lie beneath approximately 1/4" of housepaint generated enough enthusiasm to start a serious attempt at recovery. In 1995 ConservArt Associates was asked to carry out tests to see if the painting was still there, if it was truly a fresco, and if it could be recovered.

The tests proved that the painting was indeed buon fresco and that the overpaint could be safely removed, but that the mural was only partially intact. The auditorium, also a WPA construction, had been slated for demolition after a number of earthquakes had destabilized it. Public objection, however, prevented its destruction and extensive seismic retrofitting was done to stabilize the building.

The retrofits resulted in the loss of large sections of the mural, visible under the layers of overpaint as coarse raised 10' x 1' patches in five areas across the 15' x 80' mural. Only removal of the overpaint and excess cement from the retrofits would reveal how much of the fresco had actually been lost. This paper describes how the fresco was cleaned and how the missing areas were replaced, returning a fascinating part of Fullerton's culture to public view. The paper focuses on the technical aspects of a project which also dealt with student and community education and involvement in the conservation treatment.


Pigment Studies - from Rock Art to James Ensor

David Scott

The examination of rock art pigments both from in-situ studies and from pigment cakes within museum collections are discussed, particularly in relation to an organic binder identified in a black pigment cake from the Chumash Indians. The binder proved to be blood, and further work showed the blood to be a mixture of human blood and pronghorn antelope blood. Historic recipes for the preparation of copper-based pigments from Pliny to later Medieval treatises will be discussed, and examples of some pigment studies in relation to materials will be shown, leading up to the 19th- and early-20th-century preparation of synthetic green pigments, as in the painting by James Ensor, The Entry of Christ into Brussels.


Images of the Southwest: A Turn-of-the-Century Tourist's Album

Laura Downey

An album in the Photograph Archives of the Arizona State Museum presents several problems, both for conservation and use. Strategies for treatment will be discussed as well as issues concerning intellectual property rights and photographic images of Native Americans, especially images of native ceremonies. The examination of these and related issues is a work in progress, and audience discussion and comment are encouraged.


The Examination, Treatment and Preservation of an Italian 15th-Century Gilded Silver Processional Cross

John Hirx

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has in its collection a 15th-century Italian processional cross. The cross is an assemblage of cast gilt silver and enameled components. Full length and truncated figures are installed in a Gothic style architectural setting. The figures are either surrounded by railings, buttresses, and canopies with select enamel appliques, or are set on layers of grillwork.

Originally, the figures were held in place with tab-and-slot construction, in order to facilitate the removal of parts for cleaning. Restoration work performed on the cross in its history included a great deal of soldering. Figures were soldered in place, therefore preventing them from being removed. Furthermore, other layered parts are nailed in position, which prevents them from being removed for cleaning.

While on display, unusual fluffy brown corrosion products developed all over the cross in both accessible and inaccessible areas. The constraints of the former restoration efforts and the formation of corrosion products in inaccessible areas led to the development of a cleaning poultice, which can chemically complex copper corrosion products, reduce polishing to minimize loss of gilding and silver, be locally applied, and remain plastic and flexible enough to be removed like a mold that can be peeled away with minimal residue.

Lastly, exhibition cases are now being routinely fitted with silica gel and scavengers in order to remove both moisture and pollutants that could re-corrode or tarnish the objects.


Greek Orthodox Icons

Susan Willingham

A presentation and discussion based on 15 years' experience in Greece, working as an icon painter and conservator.


The Paintings of Joseph Christian Leyendecker: History, Technique, and Conservation

Neil Cockerline

Joseph Christian Leyendecker (18741951) was one of the most popular and prolific of American illustrators through the first half of the 20th century. Originally trained as a lithography draughtsman, he later studied painting at the prestigious Academie Julian in Paris (at the time under the direction of Adolphe William Bouguereau), and returned to the United States to pursue a successful career in commercial illustration and design.

Over a period of 52 years, he produced over 300 paintings for use as Saturday Evening Post covers, and invented the "New Year's Baby," which graced every first of the year Post cover during his career, and has since become an American icon. His corporate clients included Interwoven Socks and Kellogg's Cereals, where he developed a series of paintings of children called the "Kellogg's Kids," which the company still uses today.

His biggest success in advertising, though, was his development of the "Arrow Collar Man," which became "America's paragon of masculinity" from 1907 to 1931. "In one month in 1917," notes a document from the Archives of Cluett, Peabody & Company, the firm which produced and marketed Arrow Collars, "the Arrow Man received 17,000 fan letters, gifts, marriage proposals and notes threatening suicide a deluge surpassing even film star Rudolph Valentino's mail at his apex." Ironically, the model Leyendecker used for the Arrow Collar Man, was his longtime gay lover, Charles Beach. Beach had a profound impact on Leyendecker's career, eventually becoming his manager and business partner, but isolated the artist from friends and family members. Beach encouraged Leyendecker to paint and therefore earn as much as possible.

While historians have painted Leyendecker's life as one of isolation, torment, and depression, he nonetheless produced a body of paintings that illustrated a glorified life of happy children, hardworking adults, sophisticated high society, and champion athletes, all of them, as American as apple pie.

During the course of treating over 20 of Leyendecker's paintings, now in the collection of the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California, much information has been learned regarding his working techniques. Interestingly enough, all of Leyendecker's paintings were painted to be photomechanically reproduced, and once photographed, they were often tossed aside as another deadline was fast approaching.

Leyendecker appears to have had a keen understanding of the limitations of early photomechanical reproduction, and seems to have shifted his palette to counteract the "reddening" which occurred during the printing process, especially in the teens. Many other technical details will be reviewed during the course of this presentation, as well as conservation approaches to solving the dilemma of preserving historical information which is part of what has become fine art.


Inuit Soapstone Carvings

Paul Pihl

Soapstone carving is an art commonly identified with the Inuit. This art form is unique in that while the art and heritage of the Inuit spans a very large time period (~2000 yrs.), covers a vast geographical area (from Siberia to the east coast of Greenland), and includes a wide variety of groups, forms, and materials used, the initiation of soapstone carving, as we know it today, can be traced to 1949.

The art form is unique in that the materials (including the stone itself) and techniques used are rarely native, but have been introduced with the sole purpose of supplying a burgeoning demand for "authentic" Inuit handicrafts. The interesting history of the development of soapstone carving will be reviewed revealing the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Inuit.


Crossing the Borders: Oil Paintings on Paper and Conrad Wise Chapman's Valley of Mexico

Alise Bowler

The presentation will describe the conservation treatment of several oil paintings on paper included in the exhibition "Conrad Wise Chapman: View of the Valley of Mexico." Special emphasis is placed on how certain rationales for treatment and display were arrived at through consideration of the works' idiosyncrasies, as well as problems generally associated with oil paintings on paper. Implications for both paper and paintings conservators in treating oil paintings on paper are also discussed, including a summary of results from a survey/ questionnaire distributed to conservators in California.

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