After more than two and a half years, two vaccinations and two boosters, I finally succumbed to Covid, in New Mexico USA.
I was in a place that I have wanted to see for many years, the House, and Studio of Georgia O’Keeffe, or it may have been Taos, or even Santa Fe. One cannot be sure, however, it got me.
Now, resting up in bed, in isolation and needing to rebuild my strength, I am taking the opportunity to write again.
In this blog I will reflect on several projects that have kept me engaged throughout 2020, into 2021 and 2022. Fitting in and around lockdowns, five-kilometre restrictions and curfews. It was great to take a breath of fresh air into 2022 and see some outcomes. Thanks Tony for the photo of Cecelia and I. Thanks Cecelia for the photo of me in the grass.
A friend and her husband, who had downsized, asked me to visit and assist in selecting and placing artworks in her new home. What a pleasure it was to help her work through her collection of artworks and framed family photographs, discuss her favourite works and make decisions on where they would be located. We even selected a work that was stored away in the garage, that now has pride of place in the sitting room.
She was very happy and recommended to another mutual friend that I assist her. Hence in the early days of 2020 I made a visit to her new abode, and we started a journey together. Questions asked:
Which are your favourite works, forget value?
Which works do you not want to keep?
Which works do you prefer to look at everyday, where you spend most of your time?
As several of the works had been living on bricks walls, the rear sides were in disrepair, a couple had the glass broken and one gifted work needed to be mounted for hanging.
She had a significant, very old Chinese artefact to donate to a museum, another possibly to sell, and several to be donated to the Op Shop. I contacted the Chinese museum in Melbourne, who recommended the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo. It seems that her family have descendant connections with Bendigo, and they are happy to receive the piece. Some research met dead ends, however one work that we enquired to sell, she has kept and received an authenticity certificate to accompany it. Others went to the Op Shop. I took artworks home for repair, reglazing, and mounting.
Eventually we were able to have time together to plan for placement of the artworks in the home. I made several enquiries regarding an installer and finally made a date with Jessie to hang the works. Unfortunately, my friend was in hospital and could not enjoy the time with us. We kept sending her photos of the hang as we went about the house installing. It was such a privilege to engage on this project, delving into a collection that has taken many years to acquire, bringing works back to life and placing them in their new home. I gain much satisfaction and pleasure in this form of work. It took much longer than we both anticipated, but well worth the result.
At some stage during the pandemic my young sister called to ask about refurbishing a casting that she had had in storage for several years, that previously hung in her backyard. Now in her new home she wanted to silver leaf the piece and asked if I had any ideas about it. Slowly, slowly was how it happened, due to her health issues. I decided to surprise her and do the job myself. I had previously looked at the piece, which is made from plaster, internally supported with a fibrous, grass and extremely pitted from time in the weather. With the cast in my studio, I researched, don’t we love YouTube? I had dabbled with leafing, but this was a big male torso casting with lots of surface to clean and prepare before any additions. I started with steel wool, steel pot scrubber, sandpaper and finally got out the trusty rechargeable drill and brass rotary brush, that I had cleaned down the inside of the fireplace with. (That’s another story.)
I didn’t want to wet the surface, so all work was done dry, with face mask and vacuum cleaner. The green mould was tough to remove, and the structure held together well. After discussion with my sister, we decided to leave the pitted surface to create a texture under the silver leaf. I purchased a white primer that I had used when repainting our stained timber kitchen chairs. The primer states that when used it will seal almost any surface for painting, even plastic.
We had had a discussion on the base colour, under the leafing. My understanding is that red is used under gold leaf and traditionally, I recently was told, that blue is used under silver. My sister decided on black as her new interior is mainly chrome and black. I purchased a flat black acrylic spray from the local hardware and became most annoyed when almost finished the nozzle would not work, so frustrating. When you have a third of the can left and cannot get it out. I reverted to using nozzles from other cans in the studio, hence ruining another couple of nozzles.
The black cast looked superb, and I checked with her whether she still wanted the silver leafing, yes, she did.
Not knowing how much I would need I purchased two packs of 25 sheets and two bottles of specialist glue. What I discovered was that I had silver leaf from many years ago, when I was dabbling. Silver leaf is quite forgiving within the application process. Like all good stable artworks, foundation is important, you will not have a good oil painting if the canvas is not prepared well. I was happy with the surface to adhere to; the glue was superb to work with once I understood the consistency and curing procedure. All these actions were trialled first on an old plaster cast that I had made, each step taken was trialled, even the brass rotary brush. The only time I wet the surface was with a damp cloth prior to the prime sealer and then the cast dried as quickly as possible with hairdryer and heater.
The final layer was a clear varnish coating to protect the silver leaf from tarnishing.
My sister likes shiny surfaces, I like satin. Again, it was trialled, and she opted for the shine. I am pleased with the outcome and happier still that my niece came with my sister during the leafing period for her to apply some of the material herself.
Art Legacy Collector
A very dear artist friend, J, could see the time coming when she would perhaps have to change accommodation and live in a care facility. What a traumatic decision to make. J had built the house, with help, made the bricks, sourced to the quirky fittings, scoured the demolition yards for windows and doors that spoke of her character and lived there for 50 years. I had offered to assist her in closing the studio, which included selecting paintings to go to new homes and others to be destroyed. In late May I went to discuss and look at several artworks with her just prior to her leaving the house for the last time.
Another mutual friend Anne and I, mid-June, delved into a life-long collection of all things in a working studio and an incredible storage of artworks. We had allocated some three days to sort, photograph and allocate artworks into piles of yes, no, maybe to be considered. J had placed allocation notes on many of the hanging artworks, however it had been many years since she had entered the cellar storage. Works that were simply not finished, and or damaged were relegated quickly to the ‘not to be kept’ pile. Another old friend of J’s came to help sift through what he thought was to be retained, basically what he could not let go of, which found him with a stack of artworks to take with him. He had known J since he was 15y.o and very close to her.
We had previously discussed her legacy and I took on the ‘job’ of separating out boxes of negatives, slides, recordings, CDs, DVDs, photographs, catalogues, invitations, and an amazing amount of art related paraphernalia.
Anne and I managed to get the bulk of photography done on the third day so that family and friends could collect the artworks allocated to them.
I found it most difficult to destroy the works that had to be culled, Anne had that awesome task.
I was amazed to find that each time I opened a cupboard or drawer it was filled with more works, art materials, or things to be sorted for her legacy.
Anne and I called into the care facility to update J, show her some photos we found, ask about newfound file and boxes.
My task extended to include collecting items for asylum seekers and arranging pick up, twice.
The family waited for our task to be done before calling in the declutter/cleaning company. I passed by one day to find about six women busily sorting and was pleased to hear that much of the goods were headed to charities, half-way houses and youth facilities. I had cringed at the thought of everything going into landfill.
The house sold within a week of going on sale. J was very pleased as the purchaser is a man who had originally helped her make the mud bricks. As she said, “The house is in good hands.”
Anne I will work through compiling J’s legacy for perpetuity and in the meantime, I am the recipient of one of her stunning artworks.
Pop-up Exhibition Coordinator
Local Potter and friend, Jane Annois and I were chatting about the Warrandyte Art Space. The Space, through Manningham Council, is administered by the Warrandyte Community Association. WCA gave the space for the photographic exhibition at the end of 2021, Fresh Perspectives.
Jane had been offered the space for more exhibitions and I suggested a series of pop-up events.
We got together with Wayne Rankin for further discussion, which grew into a meeting of about sixteen artists at Stony Creek studio on 29 May. It was a fabulous session of nutting out what a group of artists perceived as a workable opportunity for Warrandyte artists. On the day we scheduled a pop-up exhibition for the last weekend of each month until November this year. Each month three various artists would showcase artworks from their studios.
The Warrandyte Diary was contacted to run a series of promotional articles that each group submits. I decided to be a floating participant and to slot in where an artist was required. I showcased artwork in August with Wayne Rankin. It was quite a buzz and I thank everyone who came along to support the project. It has been fabulous to see the evolution of the project, where new artists are joining the group. We originally scheduled exhibitions for six months, however, the space is now being scheduled for six months in 2023. The first exhibition is to take place on the last weekend in February and coincides with the Annual Pottery Expo.