art break: louise nevelson

Often when people learn that I work in an art museum, they say something like, “Oh it must be so amazing being surrounded by art every day.”   While that is definitely one of the highlights of museum work, you might be surprised at how infrequently that work actually brings me in contact with the art.  

Today it dawned on me that I had not seen more than a passing glimpse of the Collection in weeks [hanging my head in shame], so I officially declared an art break and hustled to the Bloch Building to watch the in-gallery conservation of Louise Nevelson’s End of Day–Nightscape IV.

I never for one minute questioned what I had to do.  I did not think for one minute that I didn’t have what I had.  It just didn’t dawn on me.  And so if you know what you have, then you know that there’s nobody on earth that can affect you.  —Louise Nevelson, Dawns + Dusks

From February 9 – 25, objects conservation intern Rose Daly [check out her fantastic blog Daly Conservation] will carefully remove dirt from and repaint the large sculpture.   Because of its size–just under 8 feet tall and nearly 14 feet wide–and fragile nature, the sculpture could not be removed from the gallery for this process.  This means regular joes like you and me have the unique opportunity to get an insider’s view into the art conservation world.

Objects like those used by Nevelson. Please touch!

The gallery was quiet when I arrived.  I was warmly greeted by Docent Mary Anne McDowell and we discussed our mutual admiration of the patience of conservators.     I quickly confessed that I was also there to scavenge content for this post.  Rose had already peeped my motivation [the fact that she reads my blog only adds to her awesome quotient] and graciously acquiesced to being featured.

I can sympathize with the challenges of working before an audience [my office, located in the very public Ford Learning Center,  is affectionately called “The Box”] so I asked if it was difficult working in the gallery.  Rose responded that the toughest aspect was not becoming so engaged with visitors that she lost focus.   She also mentioned that the amount of interest in the minutiae of the conservation process and the powerful impact of Nevelson’s work were very impressive.   Having grown up alongside this artwork, I can attest to its compelling nature and the amazing way that its meaning alters and shifts, becoming more provocative and thought-provoking every time I see it.

Cosmetic sponges used to clean the sculpture.

Although my visit today was brief, I definitely plan on spending more time in the gallery as the conservation project continues.