Preparing for African American Art: Conserving a Work By John Scott, Part 3
May 31, 2012
Do you know that some of the materials used in art conservation are similar to those you might find listed on the back of your hair gel or face lotion bottle?
This sculpture, Thornbush Blues Totem, by John Scott had a layer of foamy tape stuck to the bottom and sides of the base. A few weeks ago, I observed Hugh Shockey, objects conservator, as he mixed the fluid solvent (cyclomethicone) with a silicon gel base. Cyclomethicone is a silicon-based molecule that's used in personal care products like body sprays, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, and sunscreen. Silicon is not the same as the caulking material found at the local hardware store, it is, as I learned, the 14th element on the periodic chart. The gel/solvent mixture reduced the tape's adhesive bond and allowed Hugh to gently rub the residue off the surface without harming the paint layer underneath.
The conservation community often borrows technology and materials from other fields, such as medicine and the cosmetics industry, because it has been well-tested. And if it's safe to put on your face then it might be safe to put on this sculpture. Thornbush Blues Totem is currently on view as part of the African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond exhibition which is open through September 3, 2012.
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