This collage series by Ben Patterson (1934 – 2016) is fun and playful, and yet still provocative. It came in for cleaning and for the pieces to be re-secured. We devised a Velcro system for the weighty Duck Family Dreamland, and thoroughly cleaned the series with a restorer’s solution and quite a few cotton tips.
Benjamin Patterson was born in Pittsburgh in 1934, and graduated from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, in 1956 with a degree in music. He was a virtuosic double bassist but as an African American he could not find a job in the United States, so he played with various orchestral groups in Canada, including the Halifax Symphony Orchestra and the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra (as principal bassist). In the ’60s as a member of the Fluxus movement, Patterson sought to “open people’s minds, ears, and eyes, not necessarily with shock technique, but with surprises and unexpected things so they become more aware and sensitive to the world around them.” By the early ’70s the first of three Patterson children was born, and as a result the art pursuits for Patterson were largely put on hold; as he said “Family was coming along, and papa needed to earn money.” He worked various jobs, and earned a master’s in library science from Columbia University, but in ’87, once his children had finished university he was able to return full-time to art and worked extensively, staging performances and shows around the world. “Artists are like old cowboys; they die with their boots on,” Patterson would say to Interview magazine in 2013.
In memory of Billy Mayer. Studio shots of ceramic sculptures that we gilded for Billy. It was always a pleasure to collaborate and talk shop with Billy. Over the years he was very supportive of my work and our company. We will miss him. There is nothing like being able to share in creative work with another human being.
Some careful polishing with nonabrasive materials, plus removal of surface contaminates that had obscured this Picasso (1881-1973) sculpture with a black film. This is a great example where a little bit of work can have a substantial effect.
Jean Juhlin (20th Century) sculpture suffered from a broken foot. After careful stabilization work with a restorer’s substance the color was then touched up to marry it to the original.
By her own words Jean Juhlin considers herself to be self-taught, driven by the muse within her that acts as a compass to guide her artistic callings. In the 1960s she opened a studio in Chicago and reconstellated her muse, teaching to a wide range of aspiring sculpturists. At the time she also took on commissions for portraitures.
Her formal learning took place firstly at the Art Institute of Chicago and then secondly in Mexico, at the Instiuto National de Ballas Arts and then the Insituto de Allende. She cites her time in Mexico as a defining period in her art maturation. There she befriended the indigenous population and was particularly drawn to the strong yet calm demeanor of the indigenous women. This subject matter and pathos combination kept her busy as a sculpturist for several years.
Most of her success as a commercial artist can be found in the American Southwest where corporations commissioned her to create life-sized statues of her signature work: indigenous women in the act or stance of primal yet powerful constitutions.
Her work has been at the Ray Tracey Gallery in Santa Fe, El Prado Gallery in Sedona, Miller Gallery in Cincinnati, and Other Side Gallery in Pier, Michigan.
This diverse and interesting collection of statues recently came into the studio. Treatment options are still being debated, but we just wanted to share this collection that is both diverse and rich in subject matter. For perspective, most statues are about 8 to 13 inches tall, and are made from wood, cast bronze, earthenware, or brass.
American folk art is a 20th century term that was coined by collectors, professional artists, critics, dealers, and curators whose search for an authentic American art was answered by a type of work that presented a nuanced picture of national identity, faith, progress, ingenuity, community, and individuality. Folk art’s hallmark quality is its utilitarian aspect which separates it from from the elite or professional product that constitutes mainstream art. Because of this, folk art has a tendency to stress local needs and tastes. Oftentimes, an artist will use materials that were local or found “objects,” which required their unique eye to imagine how the object could be incorporated. This adds to the work’s charm and aesthetics, as no two artists see things the same way, but it can also make the restoration tricky. To mend a section, or to replace it, is usually the moral quandary a conservator with be faced with.
This beekeeper came in with breaks along the stick, where the beehive sat. To keep as much of the original as possible, we chose to mend the broken pieces by drilling and then plugging with 1/16″ dowel. In-painting matched the original colors and a very small amount of Milliput was used to strengthen the hand. We were very pleased to honor the artist’s original material and complete the restoration without replacing any parts.
Working closely with the client, we came to the realization that the original restored Krijger sculpture had a few lingering aspects that were not as true to the original as we had hoped. The torso, the shoulder joints, and the main ribcage were the areas of concern.
The restored sculpture’s torso was built from a salvaged barn beam. This differed from the original which was a piece of red cedar driftwood. The barn beam had two advantages: fewer hours of labor would be needed to shape it, and it would have greater structural integrity. Unfortunately, once it was all done, the torso still in some ways felt like a barn beam and lacked the rounded animal-like qualities of the original. A fresh red cedar log was brought in and carefully chiseled down to the desired shape, and then chemically treated to match the color of the original.
Structural integrity was also a concern for the shoulder joints. Original restoration had sent bolts on either side, partway into the torso. This adhered each leg independently, making adjustments to stand the sculpture easier, but the overall strength this gave to the sculpture was less than we had hoped. We decided to re-engineer how the shoulders attached, and opted for a stronger and thicker single bolt sent clean through the torso. This, however, added a considerable degree of difficulty, in that the legs were now co-joined, and adjusting one would minutely effect the other and draw the sculpture out of balance. We realized the bolt that connected the shoulder joints would need to have a slight bend in order to have the feet maintain a level plane. The process to find the correct angle was done by trial and error, a laborious effort of heating and then gripping the ends with wrenches to pry it into shape. This took us a few tries, but we got it.
The final area we wanted to get perfect was the main ribcage. Krijger had originally used a very thin metal which was easy to shape. We had chosen a stronger gauge of metal that would maintain itself better over time. But this also meant it was harder to shape. Our original restoration had the individual ribs straighter than the original statue. By heating the metal we were able to soften it enough so that we could shape each part into a more naturalistic appearance.
As you can imagine this project turned into an extensive restoration which challenged us to remain disciplined and to trust our knowledge with different materials, and that, ultimately, we would get a sculpture that we and our client would be proud of.
This Eugene Jardin (1947-) statue, 64 inches tall, had an unfortunate mishap. After some intricate repositioning and a special restorer’s adhesive, the neck was joined back to the body, with clamps providing some support. In-filling was necessary to replace what had been damaged or lost. In-painting was then carried out to match the assortment of colors back to the original.
Jardin was born in Germany in 1947, and studied at the Michalis School of Art, University of Capetown, South Africa. Since his move to the United States in the early 1980’s he has been considered a southwestern artist. Besides establishing a strong position in California and New Mexico art markets, he has received critical acclaim for exhibitions at numerous major galleries throughout the world. His work has been purchased by several museums and major corporations worldwide, and is included in the private collections of Johnny Carson, Jodie Foster, Jane Seymour, David Hockney, Pia Zadora, Wolfgang Puck, and John Schlesinger.
Restored sacred objects placed in new, modern sanctuary.
A tabernacle came into the studio with signs of wear and improper cleaning: many scratches and surface abrasions had resulted from this. After disassembly, the parts were dipped in chemistry and then cleaned and polished. Some buffing was also needed in order to remove the scratches. Stay tuned as we complete the finishing touches . . .