Fernando Ramos Prida Collection

The 8 works by Fernando Ramos Prida (1937) are enroute to auction with a layover at our studio for a little restoration. Most need moderate cleaning, and some will require a little more. Typical of Prida’s style, seven of these are reliefs made from wood, giving them many nooks and crannies for dust and dirt to accumulate. The eighth work is an oil on canvas and is sizable at 47 1/4” x 39 1/2.” We due expect the removal of the dirt to have a significant impact on the colors.

Prida was born on January 2, 1937 in Mexico City. In the 1950s, he studied art at the National Academy of San Carlos and the Esmeralda school of painting and sculpture. A spot in the very prestigious Galeria de Arte Mexicano was offered to him after he graduated. In 1965, at the age of 28, he had a one man show that sold out; and across the United States, Europe, and Mexico, he has had 31 solo shows and 69 group exhibitions. Cuernavaca is now where he calls home, but he has worked and lived in Boston and Paris.

Prida’s work can be found in private and public collections all over the world. In Mexico, Latin America, America, and Europe, there are 36 museums exhibiting original Fernando Ramos Prida pieces. At age 43, he began to carve and paint wooden tablets left outside to crack in the scorching hot sun. This art is reminiscent of the Olmec and Mayan heritage of his youth. This has become the style that he is most well known for.

Ivory Sculptures Finished

Finishing touches to the ivory sculptures were made. We counted 37 broken flower leaves that were supported with tape while the Jade 403 hardened. For the pieces that suffered a rough shape from the fall, drilling was needed to smooth these areas and give a good fit. This was the same method of attachment the original artist would have used. We were pleasantly surprised by the wonderful and natural shine that came out from our careful cleaning. These statues are rather impressive pieces and were very rewarding objects to restore.

Ivory Sculptures Work in Progress

With a temporary base to fortify the Vase with Flowers we’ve started the delicate task of reattaching the broken pieces. We’re using two types of epoxies; one of which dries clear. Tape is being used to hold the delicate areas while we work in the chrysanthemum flower structure that is quite cramped. Still to come will be a new, sturdier base with matching wood. Also, at the midsection, the statue is in two pieces where the flowers meets the vase. These pieces sit freely on each other, and we’ll use restorer adhesives to adhere them and greatly improve the stability. The Dragon Holding Birdcage has been propped, and a few loose planks adhered and weighted down while they dry. Stay tuned for more. . .

Ivory Sculptures

A pair of very intricate and fascinating ivory sculptures came in. They were purchased a long time ago and are likely Chinese in origin. The chrysanthemum sculpture sits above a vase that actually contains fish and seaweed.

Trouble stemmed from the flower base and how it freely rests on the wooden base. It’s very top heavy and it fell over and hit the dragon sculpture, which stood nearby, cracking the base of the dragon and causing it to lean down, lowering the birdcage. There were also a “few” broken flower pieces.

An old restoration left epoxy glue that had turned brown. This will, however, offer some clues as to which pieces go where, but the puzzle aspect of the restoration will likely prove to be the most challenging part. To reattach the ivory we’ll use a pair of restorer-grade epoxies, one of which is a glass epoxy and will dry clear. And to protect the chrysanthemum sculpture for the future, we’ll fortify the base making it more sturdy.

The United States banned the sale of ivory objects in 2016. Exempt items include instruments and firearms containing less than 200 grams of ivory, and antiques professionally appraised to be at least a century old. The price per pound of ivory went as high as $1,500, and an estimated 100,000 elephants were poached between 2012-2014.

Willie the penguin, icon of KOOL

This iconic piece of history had cracked at the feet and in the paper mache along the front of the statue. Lost areas were rebuilt, redoing the paper mache in layers working from the interior, and the craquelures in-painted.

Willie the penguin was introduced in 1934 by The Ted Bates Advertising Agency. During the time there were several other cartoonish spokespersons like Kellog’s Snap, Crackle & Pop, Reddy Killowat, and the Campbell’s Kids. Willie’s product line included salt and pepper shakers, ash trays, holders for wooden matches, lighters, and when air-conditioning was introduced, a version was created to suggest customers to enter a storefront because it was “kool” inside. It has also been debated that a picture of Willie wearing a top hat was the inspiration for the Penguin character in Batman. Regardless, Willie appeared in his own comic books after he was licensed by Standard Comics for six issues, with the cigarette brand dropped from the title. By the ’60s, however, the company had shifted advertising focus and opted for wintry outdoor scenes to promote their business.

Icon of St. Nicholas

It started with the Council of Nicaea, when a group of over 300 Catholic bishops debated the nature of the Holy Trinity. Arius took the position that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. It took a lengthy explanation for Arius to do this, and while Nicholas listened he grew in anger. As legend has it, once he had had enough, Nicholas stood up, walked across the room, and smacked Arius. Emperor Constantine had called for the Council of Nicaea, and at the time it was illegal for anyone hit another person in his presence, but he allowed the bishops to decide on Nicolas’ punishment. This became jail time. During the night, an ashamed Nicholas saw Jesus and Mary the Mother. They asked him, “Why are you in jail?” “Because of my love for you,” responded Nicholas. It’s then reported that Jesus gave Nicholas the Book of the Gospels, and Mary gave an omophorion so Nicholas could again be dressed as a bishop. The next morning the jailers found a content Nicholas in bishop’s robes, reading the Gospel. They brought him to Constantine who freed him and reinstated him as the Bishop of Myra, a city in present day Turkey. That is the story told in this icon.

The  most pressing issue are the immense number of craquelures, the fine cracks. They are in danger of enlarging, as well as they tell the story of what’s happening below the surface. It’s likely the oak panel is cracking which will cause the paint film to shift. Along St. Nicholas’ robe there is an area of loss on the central cross. Furthermore, across the icon there are many white dots that represent small areas of loss. It will be necessary to consolidate the whole surface of the icon. This will give a smoother and cleaner look to the icon, and make the gilding even more impressive. Stay tuned for more . . .

Ben Patterson Collage Series

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

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.


Jean Juhlin Sculpture

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.