Hurricane Sandy Archive

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Why We Assist in Disasters

Friday, February 15, 2013

Those of us who volunteer to assist in disaster response are, obviously, not in it for the money. Private conservators are not getting paid while volunteering. Many of us are away from family and friends, work hard and go to bed exhausted during recovery efforts. So what is in it for us?

For me, as for many of us, it is the giving back to our community, assisting in saving our culture, and the joy of helping someone preserve a little bit of his/her history. The piece below is a perfect example. I captured the title “For Matthew, May 14-May 15, 1976″ commemorating the birth of the artist’s son.

For Matthew, May 14-May 15, 1976

For Matthew, May 14-May 15, 1976

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Teaching Moments at CRC

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Intern Assisting With Vaccuming Canvas PieceAll the work on the artwork damaged by Hurrican Sandy is done by volunteers. It’s a great opportunity for an intern to learn about assessing and cleaning paintings while on the job with a volunteer conservator. Today we had a student volunteer who is studying to become a paintings conservator. She assisted the volunteer conservator, had the opportunity to meet with two artists and work on several different pieces of art. Here she is assisting with vacuuming a canvas. You can already see the difference where they have cleaned.
Artist Cleaning Canvas Stretcher
Sometimes the best person to clean artwork is the artist because he/she knows the piece very intimately. The artist knows what materials were used to create the work and what the original looked like. For instance, the charcoal pieces that I was working with were smeared. Since I don’t know what the original looked like, I am the not the best person to clean the artwork — the artist is. I taught an artist’s assistant how to clean artwork on paper. She knows his work intimately and can consult with the artist as needed.

The paintings conservator worked with an another artist today and taught her how to vacuum clean her works on canvas. I also showed her how to clean the canvas wood stretchers. Since the wood stretchers are made of soft, porous wood, the frames will eventually need to be replaced. In the meantime, some of the mold has been cleaned off, reducing health risks.

There is no way that we can clean all the artwork in the time we have at the CRC. By training others on basic cleaning, we increase our “cleaning power.” Plus the work can continue once the CRC is closed.

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Busy Day at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Testing for Mold

Testing for Mold

We had a very busy day at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn. The volunteer paintings conservator examined a couple of paintings that an artist brought in during the morning, just before noon she removed an artwork from a frame and examined the piece for mold and damage, in the afternoon she examined art on canvas and tested for mold.

Cleaning a Wooden Object

Cleaning a Wooden Object

The volunteer object conservator spent most of the day cleaning a wooden object with a vacuum cleaner, brush and soot sponge.

Vacuuming a Canvas

Vacuuming a Canvas

An artist’s daughter-in-law spent several hours vacuuming his artwork on canvas.

I spent the day assisting the paintings conservator photodocumenting each piece that she examined and spent a couple hours inspecting art on paper for mold.

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An Artist’s Quandary

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

CraigPaintingWhat does an artist do when his/her artwork is damaged? Throw it away because it has been changed and is no longer the same piece? Re-work it and make it a “new” painting? Repair the damage and try to keep the essence of the original? Or leave it as damaged and let it tell the story of the original and the disasterous event? Artists in New York are having this discussion. Everyone is coming up with a different answer and sometimes the same artist has different answers depending on the piece.

Craig Fisher, NYC artist, made the decision to keep this oil on canvas, 1988-89, as is, showing the damage of Hurricane Sandy. He’s decided to let the yellow show through the green.

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Assessment and Cleaning

Monday, February 11, 2013

AssessmentToday I spent most of the day inspecting close to 150 art works on paper for mold. It’s very time consuming. The front and back of each piece of art needed to be entirely visually inspected — each inch. I only found a handful that I thought a paper conservator should take a second look at. With reassurance that the pieces are free of mold, the artist can take his time making decisions on how to deal with his water-damaged works.

CleaningTwo volunteer conservators spent the day at the center cleaning the backs of artwork on canvas with a soot sponge. The paintings had already been treated and vacuumed. They finished the entire group and the paintings are ready to be picked up by the artist.

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Assisting Artists After Hurricane Sandy

Friday, February 8, 2013

Kraft and artist examine a painting When we inspect an artist’s work, we also ask for the story of the piece to learn more about its history and composition. The pieces that this artist brought in were her final project before graduation where she used as pure a blue, red, and yellow that she could get. She had her art studio in the basement and did not have time to get these pieces out before Hurricane Sandy. (Other higher priority items were taken out.) Each piece was in a plastic bag so there was some protection. Since the basement was flooded, she took everything outside to start drying things out. However while she had everything outside drying, it rained and then the temperature dropped. By the time the entire “hurricane event” was over, her sewer backed up twice. Staying on top of things was difficult.

Although theses pieces show a lot of damage, they are important to her. She plans salvaging them the best she can. A volunteer conservator will clean the pieces for her and then she will work on them as she has time, using advice provided by a conservator.

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Salvaging Artists’ Works After Hurricane Sandy

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rack of artwork with plastic protective coverA couple years ago, I received training so I could become part of a national cultural disaster response team called AIC-CERT (American Institute for Conservation Collections Emergency Response Team). After Hurricane Sandy, AIC (American Institute for Conservation) and the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation established a Cultural Recovery Center (CRC) in Brooklyn to reach out to artists and owners affected by Hurricane Sandy. Each week one AIC-CERT member acts as the team leader assisting where needed. At the end of the week, the baton is passed on to another AIC-CERT member. I’m acting as the AIC-CERT team leader for the rest of this week and then all of next week.

Today I worked with a paintings conservator and an artist to review his paintings that had been stablized and lightly cleaned in the CRC studio by volunteer conservators during the past few days. I photo documented each painting, taking a picture of the assigned number to the painting, a front image, and any problem areas. The conservator discussed the damage and possible solutions for each painting with the artist. She will add her observations and recommendations to a treatment sheet that is kept for each painting.

We then set each painting into a wooden rack that a volunteer had constructed for safe keeping until the artist can pick up the paintings.