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Unearthing Family History at American Art
August 17, 2010

Hayley Plack interned in American Art's External Affairs department during the summer. Before she left, she wrote this post about discovering her uncle's artwork in our collection.

Reginald Case

Reginald Case's Statue of Liberty

I had known my Uncle Reg was a talented artist, but it wasn't until I began my internship at American Art this summer that I discovered he had two pieces in the museum's permanent collection—Statue of Liberty and Survivor. I have many memories of my great uncle, Reginald Case. As a child, I was amazed by the work that crowded his upstate New York house. There was that six-foot-high Barbie Wedding Cake, a mixed-media piece that highlighted the doll on a pedestal of feathers, beads, glitter, and sequins. I still look at his art with similar wonder and admiration, so I was excited to see it at American Art.

During my internship, I spoke with a curator, registration assistant, and conservator who had experience with my uncle's work. Curator George Gurney met Reg and my grandfather (Reg's brother) at my uncle's artwork storage unit in Rhinebeck, New York, in 2008. George eventually chose the Statue of Liberty as a good fit for the American Art Museum's collection. A few days later, Reg and my grandfather rented a U-Haul to transport it to Washington, D.C. Somewhere en route, the tip of Liberty's torch broke off. The work later found its way to the museum's Lunder Conservation Center, where it became a project for Object Conservator Hugh Shockey. On a tour of the center, I met Hugh, who explained how he had reconnected the torch and some loose beads using a hot-air tool. During its stay at Lunder, the piece even appeared in the Washington Post.

This summer I had the chance to view Liberty at the museum's storage center with Heather Delemarre from the Registrar's Office. The photos I had seen do not do this work justice. One thing I enjoyed learning is that it lights up from within—how fun! My research on the Statue of Liberty held not only sentimental value for my family and me but also afforded me the opportunity to follow the journey of an object from its selection to conservation to display or storage at the museum. Uncle Reg died last year, but his creative spirit lives on in my memory and in museum collections such as this one.

Posted by Jeff on August 17, 2010 in Behind the Scenes, Conservation at American Art


That is one eye catching statue right there!

Hayley, I (and everyone else in Miami in 1982(?)) saw Christos' work called PINK. It was one of the most memorable sights I have ever seen. YOU would have love, love, loved it. Can't believe you have met this unique artist.

As a child, I was amazed by the work that crowded his upstate New York house. It was one of the most memorable sights I have ever seen.

Impressive detailing. A new take on a classic icon.

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