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Wednesday, May 31 • 2:55pm - 3:20pm
(Treatment: Don't Go it Alone) Treatment of a White Louise Nevelson Installation

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The Louise Nevelson Chapel of the Good Shepherd installation at the Saint Peter's Church in New York City consists of seven sculptural elements. An all covering thick, white chalky restoration paint, applied from 1986-2006, has disfigured the sculpture surface. This paper will discuss paint analysis, the interaction between the original paint and the restoration paint, the condition of each paint layer and the final treatment plan as well as the art historical background supporting the treatment, the sustainable approach to the treatment and the church community involvement. The ethics behind the treatment, justifying removal of the restoration layers will also be discussed. Through examination of the Saint Peter's Nevelson surface and cross sections, as well as eight additional white Nevelson sculptures, it was determined that the original paint surface was a homogeneous cream white coating. Deterioration of the restoration layers had created a problematic surface that was actively flaking, deteriorating and discolored. Additionally, the restoration paint is dirty, uneven with bumps, ridges, brush hairs, and is lifting, peeling, and pulling up original paint. Devising a treatment method to stabilize and clean the surface has been a multiphase process dependent on the art historical research, paint analysis, and church funding. Scientific analyses of the sculptures involving Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Gas Chromatography (GCMS), X-Ray fluorescence (XRF), and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) indicated that the original paint is an alkyd resin with titanium dioxide pigment. The restoration layer was identified as polyvinyl acetate paint (PVA) with titanium dioxide pigment as the colorant. Analysis of a brown streaking residue and white bloom indicate that pentaerythritol (PE) (degradation products of the alkyd) have leached into the PVA and deposited on the restoration surface, somewhat merging the two paints. The analysis was central to designing the treatment, allowing identification of a cleaning system that would solubilize the restoration paint layer without disturbing the original paint. Environmental management was key to stabilizing the sculptures. The environmental conditions of the chapel were studied to allow for a comprehensive plan that will be implemented through renovation of the HVAC system and a new lighting system. This paper will discuss treatment goals including the decision to use funori to consolidate the paint and PVA Nanorestore gels to separate the restoration paint and reveal the original. The success and method for applying the funori will be examined and the gel application approach described. Waste reduction, minimizing toxicity and minimizing the environmental impact of the treatment were a goal of the treatment plan. A life cycle analysis (LCA) of the cleaning options influenced the treatment choices and methods. The progression of the project through funding applications, and the conservator involvement in discussions with the church community lead to the resulting execution of the project in phases and was a major part of the project success. Educating the church community, and working with the church pastors and congregation was a key part of the treatment process and a learning experience for all.

avatar for Sarah Nunberg

Sarah Nunberg

Conservator, The Objects Conservation Studio, LLC
Sarah Nunberg, principal of The Objects Conservation Studio, LLC, has been working as a conservator since 1989. She specializes in conservation of archaeological, ethnographic, decorative and contemporary art, treating objects made of wood, ceramic, stone, metal, glass, skin, leather... Read More →

avatar for Carolyn Tomkiewicz, [PA]

Carolyn Tomkiewicz, [PA]

Paintings Conservator, Conservator of Paintings, Private Practice
Carolyn Tomkiewicz works in private practice in Brooklyn. She worked as Paintings Conservator at the Brooklyn Museum from 1986, caring for the collection, as well as supervising interns. She retired from the museum in 2012. She has co-taught workshops on “Adhesives for Conservation... Read More →
avatar for Soraya Alcala

Soraya Alcala

Paintings Conservator, American Museum of Natural History
Soraya Alcalá is a Museum Conservator. Currently, she is a consultant to The Hispanic Society of America, and she is collaborating with Conservator John Scott in the maintenance and conservation of the Outdoor Sculpture Collection of Princeton University. She organizes training workshops... Read More →
avatar for Jens Dittmer

Jens Dittmer

Professor of Physics, Institut des Molécules et des Matériaux du Mans Université du Maine
Dr. Dittmer is NMR spectroscopist focusing on material science.
avatar for Mathew Eckelman

Mathew Eckelman

Professor of Civil Engineering, Northeastern University
Matthew Eckelman is an Assistant Professor at Northeastern University in Civil and Environmental Engineering, with a secondary appointment in Chemical Engineering. His research covers life cycle assessment, environmental systems modeling, and green engineering, with a focus... Read More →
avatar for Michael C. Henry

Michael C. Henry

Architect/Engineer, Watson & Henry Associates
Michael C. Henry, PE, AIA, is Principal Engineer/Architect with Watson & Henry Associates. He consults on sustainable environmental management and building envelope performance for preventive conservation of museum collections. He consults throughout the United States and in Cuba... Read More →

Cindie Kehlet

Associate Professor, Pratt Institute
avatar for Chris McGlinchey

Chris McGlinchey

Conservation Scientist, Museum of Modern Art
Chris joined the Museum of Modern Art in 1999 to setup the science section of the conservation department. Prior to that he worked in the paintings conservation department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he assisted with technical analysis of the collection and the development... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 2:55pm - 3:20pm CDT
Regency C-D Ballroom Level, West Tower