LIVE Q&A with MoMA Painting & Sculpture Conservators Ellen & Diana (March 14)

LIVE Q&A with MoMA Painting & Sculpture Conservators Ellen & Diana (March 14)


Diana: Maybe we shouldn’t say this because
I haven’t made any videos. Ellen: Hi, everyone, welcome to MoMA’s live
Q&A. I’m Ellen. Diana: And I’m Diana. Ellen: And we’re both conservators here
at the Museum of Modern Art, which is where we’re sitting. We’re actually in the painting side of the
painting and sculpture conservation studio. Painting is your field, right, Diana? Diana: Yeah, I specialize in paintings. Ellen: And I’m a sculpture conservator,
which means I take care of all of the three-dimensional works in MoMA’s collection. And you can see sculpture is behind that glass
wall behind us where you can see all those robot arms coming down from the ceiling. We’ve been making videos for a while about
our work that you can see on MoMA’s YouTube channel. And since we got such good questions in the
comment section, we decided to host this live Q&A, to allow you to submit questions to us
directly. Diana: So we’ll start off with some of your
questions submitted on the trailer and in past videos. Ellen: For those of you watching at home,
please, submit your questions to us live and our producers will pass them on to us during
the stream. So that’s it for introductions. Let’s start with the first question. Diana: Okay. Do you wanna grab it? So the first question is about conserving
a Frank Lloyd Wright statue. Shelby, asks, “How did you get the job?” What schooling is required to become a restoration
technician? I want to do that for a living.” Ellen: And then we have another question
it’s sort of similar, right, from Niet Tove, I don’t know how to pronounce that. “How did you become a conservator?” So maybe we should work backward from that
question and discuss what we do as conservators and then how we got here. Diana: Sounds good. Ellen: So, as conservators, we take care
of works in the collection and that can include treatment like reactive treatment of a work
like cleaning and repairing. But it can also be proactive work, like I’m
doing preventive… taking preventive measures like advising on crates for transport or whether
a work needs a stanchion or. Diana: Or controlling the environment that’s
surrounding the artwork. Ellen: Right. And to get to where we are today, you need
some training. There are a handful of training programs in
the country. We went to the University of Delaware, but
there are a few others on the East Coast and West Coast too. And to get into these programs, you need to
have a combination of training in science, humanities, art history and studio art. Diana: Yes, and we both went to University
of Delaware so I guess how I started in the field was actually selling tickets at an art
museum and working the coat-check. And I just started applying for any job related
within the museum, related to conservation and eventually, I applied for one job, which
I didn’t get. And then they called me back a few months
later that there was another project and I got that job and it was for a studio or a
storage move into new storage. And so I think just as long as you start in
the arts and just keep going from there. Yeah. How did you start? Ellen: That’s cool. I started… well, I come from sort of privileged
position because my mother worked at a museum so I always knew conservation existed. Which is like half the battle, I think. A lot of people have never heard of art conservation. And I grew up in California so when the Northridge
earthquake hit in 1994, I derived a lot of pleasure out of putting together little tchotchkes
that had fallen apart in my house. So that’s sort of when the seed was planted
and I sort of buried it for a while and went on to study other things. But my junior year of college, the idea came
back to me I was doing a lot of art history. But I knew I didn’t wanna be an art historian
and I took a lot of studio classes, but I didn’t wanna be an artist either. So this seemed like a really nice way to combine
both of those interests. Diana: And as far as schooling, before you
get into one of the graduate programs, so in America, there’s four different programs
and they require that you have art history, studio art, and chemistry. And so you do to do quite a bit of that work
before you get into school. A good idea is to while you’re doing all your
prerequisite schoolwork to get a job related to art conservation or an internship so you
also need a lot of practical experience. So if you do them at the same time, you’ll
be better set when you apply to the schools. Ellen: Should we go for the next question? Diana: Yeah. Ellen: Let’s see. Fudi Fickenscher says, “I’m a high school
student. How did you get started in conservation and
get experiences?” That’s a related question. Diana: And I think we were talking about
this earlier and just go visit conservation studios. Look up studios in your area, If you’re on
vacation, look up studios wherever you are and just call them or email and see if you
can go for a visit. Ellen: Yeah, you can find conservators in
your area and I agree. I think that’s the best way is to meet conservators
and talk to them about the job and see if it’s actually appealing. And that’s…I think it’s really…it’s important
to get a little bit experienced in conservation before you start collecting their prerequisites
to make sure that you’re suited for it because it’s not for everybody. But to find conservators in your area, you
can call institutions that have conservation departments. You can also go to the AIC website, the American
Institute of Conservation, and find a conservator. You can do a location-based search to find
conservators there in your area and then invite them out to coffee. Say you wanna rack their brains, Diana: Bring them cookies Ellen: say you wanna see their labs, their
studio spaces. And that can often lead to experience and
at the very least, an expanded network, which is good in any field. Diana: So next question. Ellen: I think we have some live questions, producer just gave us. All right. Let’s see. Bennett Clarkson, “How do you determine which
pieces are conserved or restored? What role do the curators play in the process
if any?” Diana: That’s a really good question. There’s a few different ways that artwork
comes to our labs, our studios. One way is if there’s an exhibition that the
artwork will be traveling to a different city, a different museum. They’ll come into our studio so we can check
them and possibly do treatment if necessary, but there’s other ways too. Ellen: Yeah, if a work is slated for loan or exhibition, we’re a very exhibition-driven
museum, those will be the works that come to our bench. And deciding whether to… okay, conservation
and restoration, I guess, are two different things. Maybe we should tackle that. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: So to conserve an object, it’s like…I guess it’s a more holistic phrase now. It can include restoration, but it’s forward-looking. You’re trying to preserve what’s already there. And technically, we’re doing that for our
entire collection. That’s MoMA’s mission, to preserve its collection. So as conservators at MoMA, we conserve the
whole collection. And we do that, like Diana mentioned before,
with a lot of passive means, making sure everything’s stored correctly, that the environments are
controlled, so on and so forth. But then restoration, you’re returning a work
to a previous condition. And that can involve lost compensation, like
in painting or retouching. And determining which pieces get restored
is sort of a bigger question. And that, curators play a pivotal role. If there’s a piece that they wanna show and
they’re not happy with the condition or they think the condition is distracting in some
way to the presentation they want to make, then we will discuss options for restoration. Diana: Definitely. Should we go for another one of these? Ellen: Yeah. Diana: Okay. So this question is about the Yves Klein painting
that was restored by our colleague, Ellen Davis, brilliant colleague, Ellen Davis, who
we… Ellen: We lost to the Harvard Art Museum’s but. Diana: Hi, Ellen. Ellen: Hi, Ellen, we miss you. Diana: We miss you. Ellen: Very happy for you. Diana: We miss you. So this question comes from a name I cannot
pronounce. Ellen: Dsibthorpe. Diana: Dsibthorpe says, “To borrow a phrase from conservation biology, ‘conserved to what
era?’ As an evolutionary biologist, I would say
leave it be, let it evolve.” It’s a good question. Ellen: Conserve to what era? It’s fun to hear from a conservation biologist
because I feel like if you go to a cocktail party and you say you’re a conservator, everybody
thinks that you’re conserving wildlife and trees. You know, they think you’re a conservationist. You can have to explain, no, it’s an art conservator. So it’s fun to hear from somebody from that
actual field, it seems, evolutionary biologist. Conserve to what era? That is a question we certainly grapple with
as art conservators. And I think the implication is that anything we do to an object is necessarily interpretive
where we bring with us our own biases. And we’ll make decisions that result in the
ultimate…how the work is presented ultimately and that reflects who we are at this time
and not… it isn’t some overarching truth that we’re trying to reach. So I think keeping that in mind and knowing
we can’t escape our own biases, I don’t think that means we should abstain from conserving
because there are some cases where you really have to intervene in some way, right? Diana: Yeah, and sometimes we intervene invisibly. So some artworks need to be stabilized and
I would say that’s a much more common treatment than a full treatment that changes the appearance
of an artwork. And so yeah, so I feel like we…if we let
everything evolve, we would be left with no cultural heritage so… Ellen: Yeah, if we took a completely passive approach, I think we wouldn’t be able to show
as much as them as we show today at the Museum. But that is certainly one of the options that
we consider when we’re considering restoring a work. Doing nothing is a form of a decision you
make in conservation too. Diana: Yeah, and we work reversibly. Ellen: Right. Diana: Or we try to make everything at least retreatable, which is… Ellen: To allow those future generations. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: If they have different ideas about how something should be presented, they can
alter what we’ve done. So yeah. Diana: Exactly. Ellen: Good question. Diana: Good question. Ellen: Zodiac Josh asks, “How much conservation is too much? When is it no longer feasible to restore a
piece? Is it still the original artwork if it has
been heavily restored? Maybe more of a philosophical question.” Indeed it’s actually more of more like three
philosophical questions. How much conservation is too much? I think he’s talking about loss compensation. Diana: Yeah, I think so. Ellen: Not conservation, per se. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: He’s talking about like… Diana: Yeah. Ellen: Retouching or introducing some new material into a work. So how much is too much? What do you think? Diana: So the monkey Jesus. Ellen: That’s too much. Diana: That’s too much and we don’t do that here. Ellen: Basically, Jesus in Spain. Diana: Yes, no we. Ellen: Two thousand and twelve. Diana: Yeah, we don’t…look it up if you haven’t seen it. We don’t do that here. So we try not to cover any original material. We are trained, you know, to do pretty precise
work. We don’t…we do little tests, we use reversible
materials, so for the most part, I think although this is a good question and we battle with
the ethics… Ellen: How much conservation is too much? Diana: How much? I think we’re trained to do a less is more
approach now. Ellen: Yeah, definitely and I think, you know, we talk about people who are predecessors
of like 20 or 30 years doing these conservation treatments. Which now, we are backing out of and undoing
and who knows what the next, the future generations will be doing with our bits of restoration. But yeah, like we said in the previous question,
we try to work in a way that can be revisited. When is it no longer feasible to restore a
piece? I don’t…I haven’t really faced that here. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: I guess that the paintings from the MoMA fire that are so far gone that… Diana: Yeah. Ellen: …restoring them in their current state is not really possible. I guess, yeah. And I guess in that way, it’s not really feasible
because it’s not It can’t be successful. If you feel like the restoration is undermining
the integrity or the authenticity of the work, maybe it’s no longer feasible. For the most part, we’re museums works that
can be treated if they’re not already in amazing condition so makes it easier on us. Should we take a live question? All right, Run for Life says, “I’m a pastel
artist and I’d love to know if they are hard to restore? Any tips to help pastel works last longer
or materials you want to stay away from?” Diana: I think for this question, a general piece of advice would be how you store your
artwork after you’ve made it is really important. You definitely don’t want to keep it in a
leaky basement. For a pastel, that would be awful. You wanna keep your artwork away from bright
sunlight, in an interior room if possible. Ellen: Heat. Diana: No heat, no pets jumping on your art. That happens a lot. Ellen: No moisture. Diana: No moisture. So that’s one really important aspect. Also, using good quality materials, if you
can, helps. But obviously, not everyone can use the highest
quality, expensive materials. So just maybe research the best way to use
those materials. Ellen: And other materials that you wanna stay away from? What do you…? Diana: I…no. Ellen: Fixatives? Diana: Oh, yeah, maybe fixatives. Ellen: I mean. Diana: Well, no. Ellen: Pro/con I mean. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: They might yellow over time, but they will help hold the pigment to the paper. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: It feels constricting to tell an artist to avoid certain materials, in a way. Some of our most interesting art combines
materials that weren’t meant to go together so just have at it, Run for Life. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: Just have fun. Diana: Keep pets away. Ellen: Keep pets away, but have fun. Diana: Have fun. Oh, this is a question we previewed earlier,
“Why are some of the individuals in this feature wearing gloves while handling art and others
are not?” Ellen: This was at our “At the Museum” episode one and it showed some of our conservators
working on objects. Our intern, Jessica Chasen, working on Kusama’s
accumulation without any gloves and that’s painted, upholstered chair. And then it showed other people, mostly preparators,
wearing gloves as they prepared works to go to the Louis Vuitton Foundation. So gloves, why do we wear gloves? Diana: So sometimes, we wear gloves to protect the artwork while, other times, we wear gloves
to protect ourselves. So some artworks, such as metals, you should
never touch without gloves because the oil from your hands can leave a mark, a permanent
mark on the surfaces. But other works, maybe something that contains
lead or something that contains something we shouldn’t be touching, we wanna wear gloves
to protect ourselves. But there’s plenty of things like Jessica,
in the video, isn’t wearing gloves because that material is okay for her to touch. And sometimes, you need the dexterity of your
fingers without gloves in order to do this fine, detailed work that we do. Ellen: Yeah, gloves can mask and make it a little bit more crude, the way that you work
and sometimes you need to wear them to protect yourself or the artwork. But often times, clean hands are preferable
to gloved hands. And not all gloves are created equal. We use nitrile gloves, for the most part,
here. That’s a fairly stable rubber. Other gloves, like latex gloves that have
powders on them, some gloves are much too thick to handle objects. And so we need to choose our gloves like we
do any tool carefully. Diana: Good question. Ellen: Yeah, that’s a great question. Should we take another live question? Diana: Yeah. Ellen: Let’s see. Naomi Silver, says, “Do you ever get nervous
working on such a valuable art? “What happens if you make a mistake? Is it stressful or relaxing doing such meticulous
work?” Diana: That’s a really good question. Ellen: Yeah, Naomi, it seems like she knows some conservators. Diana: Yeah, I mean, I think, obviously, a healthy amount of fear is always good. Ellen: Right. Diana: You don’t ever wanna be too cocky while handling precious artwork, but also we handle
so much art here that you get to a certain level of comfort, I would say. Ellen: Right. All true. Diana: So it’s not stressful. It can be very relaxing, actually. Sometimes, repetitive motions and really just
doing the same thing, like rubbing a swab over a surface for a few hours, is kind of
therapeutic. Ellen: Yeah, I know it’s great I love that kind of work. Diana: I love it. Yeah, so I would say it’s more times relaxing
than stressful. Ellen: Definitely. And to the mistake question, I think we work
in such a way that we manage risk so we wouldn’t be like trying a new solvent over the face
of a painting with these big broad brushstrokes. We work in very small, discreet areas and
always test our materials so the types of mistakes that we can make are pretty limited. Diana: I would say most of the time, we’re fixing mistakes rather than making them. Ellen: Yeah, conservators don’t make mistakes. It’s everybody else and then we take care
of your mistakes, yeah. But no, that’s like that’s a problem with
our field because it’s really hard for a conservator to admit they’ve made a mistake because it
seems like we might come across as clumsy or misinformed. It can be a little damning. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: And that’s a shame because fields learn from their mistakes. So there has been a conscious effort, I think,
within the field to be a little bit more transparent about mistakes that are made. But again, like, the vast majority of those
mistakes are totally reversible because yeah because we work in sort of a reversible way,
right? Diana: Yeah, and we do so much testing before we even touch the artwork in an overall sense
that if a mistake happens, it’s early on in testing stages. Ellen: Yeah. Ellen: Yeah, sure. Whatever you want. Diana: I got two. Okay. So Zoey asks…and this is from “At the Museum”
episode one video, “Is that a special flashlight they keep using? Does it use a different hue or wavelength
of light? It’s an odd looking flashlight.” So we brought some of these odd-looking flashlights
for you to look at. Ellen: So that’s the one she was just…in the video right? Diana: Yeah, so this is…these are just two different types of flashlights we use. This is just a regular flashlight, a good
intensity to look at surfaces of objects, to look for damages and things like that. And Ellen’s holding a UV flashlight. So this tells us different types of information. Ellen: Yeah, shining a UV light on a surface will give you information you can’t see with
regular light. Sorry, UV radiation. Diana: Radiation. Ellen: Yeah, so yeah, with a UV, do you call it a radiator then? It’s radiation. The UV torch, you can see, like, things that
you can’t see a normal light. Like I said, like past retouching or a varnish
that’s been applied is transparent in regular light. And I really…I love this style flashlight
and there are other flashlights out there on the market and there’s nothing particularly
special about this design. But I think it’s…it really helps look at
vertical surfaces you don’t have to like tilt your wrist in a weird way if you’re using
a more traditional torch. Diana: Yeah, this a good shape for us. Ellen: What other tools do we have here? Diana: Let’s see. So… Ellen: Do you want to just bring this forward? Diana: Yeah. Ellen: Oh, my God, that’s heavy. It has weight in it. Diana: It has weights in it. So people ask us about tools a lot so we thought
we’d show you a couple of our favorite tools. For example, a dental pick. We borrow a lot from other professions. There’s very few things…there’s a few things,
but very few things we use just made for conservators. So different types of dental picks are our
favorite things. Ellen: Tiny brushes for in painting and retouching but also for filling fine cracks with a filling
compound or seeping adhesive under lifting paint, one of my favorite activities. Diana: Sometimes we even reach for a porcupine quill. It’s just a very sharp, pointed tip that doesn’t
dull quickly. So that’s a really good one. What else? We have… Ellen: An agate burnisher, which has a stone at the end that can…if you rub it over a
fill, you can get it very, very smooth. So it’s really handy for filling like losses
and gilding to gesso. Diana: Burnishing. Ellen: Burnishing. Diana: Different types of paint, you know, building. Ellen: Yeah, you sort of make paint look almost plasticky if you’re doing work on a McCracken
something. Diana: It’s great. Different types of scalpel blades are also
something we use a lot. We use this for all sorts of things, from
removing accretions, taking microscopic samples, things like that. So these are really great. Ellen: This one’s so tiny. Is this one of the corneal scalpels? Diana: Yeah, so, for example, the scalpel is actually borrowed from probably eye surgery
tools. So that’s really interesting. These tweezers, all day. Ellen: Yeah, tweezers are great. Diana: Tweezers, micro spatula and we have all kinds of sandbags. So we actually…this is for scuba diving
so we borrow a lot from different fields. So actually, in the comments below, if you
have any cool tool you think we should… Ellen: Oh, that’s a good idea. Diana: …try out, let us know. Ellen: Yeah, that’s a great idea. Oh, and I wanna say this is a tool I learned
from my colleague, Megan Randall, who learned it from another New Yorker conservator. It’s actually to use a MetroCard to help finish
fills. It’s got a very thin edge. You could almost use it like a blade, but
it’s soft so it’s not going to damage your substrate if it’s prone to scratching. You can also use it for cleaning. I’ve used it to take gunk off of the top of
a box in an installation piece. It was just the right strength and thinness
to get the gunk off without damaging the surface. So yeah, this is one of my favorite tools. Diana: You could probably also cut it into weird shapes and then I’d stick it on to a
stick with some duct tape. Ellen: That’s a really great invention. I think you’re sitting on a million-dollar
idea. Diana: And then this is just an example of a palette we use with some gambling conservation
colors. We use all different types of paints, depending
on what we’re working on. Ellen: Why is it gray? Diana: So it’s gray. Gray kind of helps you see…it’s not stark
white it helps you kind of see if you’re putting white on top of a different color. You’re gonna have different effects, Rayleigh
scattering, I think it’s called so… Ellen: Rayleigh scattering. Diana: Rayleigh scattering, so you want…it’s nice to use a gray palette and yeah, so this
is one example. We also have our everyday watercolor set. And these are great because they’re quite
reversible and just water and you can use the tray as a palette itself. Ellen: Do you wanna ask…get some more questions? Diana: Yeah. Oh, this is a good question FF Boda asks,
“What are the main challenges of contemporary art conservation?” It’s a really good question. Ellen: Yeah. Contemporary art conservation, as opposed
to more traditional forms of conservation. Well, first off, there are a lot more materials
since the Second World War. So we’re dealing with a huge range of polymers
and plastics that really haven’t been tested by time. We don’t know how they’re going to age and
how they get along with other materials. So the number of materials that we’re responsible
for is infinitely larger than it would be for somebody working on objects from the early
20th century and before. Diana: Yeah, we’re also dealing with…something that’s really cool is the artists might still
be alive. And so documenting the artist’s intent and
documenting just how the artist works might be part of our documentation process. Whereas before, obviously, that was impossible. So it’s a really exciting time and I think
we’re all kind of learning as we go. Ellen: Yeah, and the ethics aren’t as cut and dry, right? Diana: Yeah. Ellen: We’re not always trying to preserve the material. We’re not as precious about the material as
we might have been for more traditional objects. Because there are some objects that demand
they be remade every time they’re shown and there are others whose material is just disintegrating. So it’s…it would be preferable in some cases
to actually remake or replicate than to preserve that material. Diana: Yeah, maybe like, for example, our colleague, Megan, was working on…Megan Randall
was working on a wax leg by Robert Gober, and I wasn’t here at the time so I don’t know
if you… Ellen: Right. The wax leg had little human hair sticking
out of it. And it goes into…the part of the installation
is it goes into a bathtub and bath water runs over it and the hairs, from the pressure of
the water, get dislodged and pulled out. So rather than fishing out those scuzzy hairs
in the bath and finding out where they came from and putting them back in place, it was
preferable from the Gober Studio and our curatorial team to replace that hair with a new hair
that they supplied Megan. And they… and someone from the studio came
and trained her on how to insert human hair into a wax leg and it was really disgusting. Diana: Yeah, so, I mean, that’s something totally new. It’s really fun. Ellen: Right, the learning curve is very steep, which is what makes it interesting. Diana: Yes. Ellen: Yeah. All right. We’ve got another live question here from
Cat, “How has conservation changed in your careers? Materials and techniques evolve. Have past conservators unknowingly done damage
to art?” Two great questions and the first one is related
to what we were just discussing, how there’s all these new materials and techniques. I think we’re lucky here at MoMA because we
have our science conservation department upstairs. And so if we have materials that we…that
come in with a new acquisition, we’re not sure what they are how they might react, we
can send them up for analysis. And that can inform the materials we use and
our understanding of that artist’s practice. Diana: Yeah, and also that the materials we use, because of new plastics and new resins
and things like that, like you were saying, we have such a broader choice when it comes
to like varnishing or when it comes to adhesive. And so I think that feeds into the second
question. I don’t think it’s fair to say that past conservators
did damage at all. I think they just didn’t have the same tools
that we might have now. So they were doing their best at the time
with what they were…what they had around them to use. Ellen: Right, but yeah, as we said before, a lot of what we do is undoing past restoration
attempts that…where materials have failed and undoubtedly… Diana: That will happen. Ellen: We’ll be on the other end of the equation in the future. Hopefully less and less as we learn more and
more. But at the same time, the materials are evolving
as our understanding of them is. So it’s hard to keep up. Diana: But we try our best. Ellen: We try our best. Diana: Oh, this one’s for Ellen. Alexis asks, and this is in regards to conserving
a Frank Lloyd Wright statue, “Okay, but what happened to her head restoration?” Rolling face. Ellen: Rolling eye emoji. Diana: Rolling eyes emoji. Ellen: Rolling face? Diana: So what did happen to her head? Ellen: Yeah, so yeah, Alexis Thomas is among, I think, several viewers who watched this
video that we posted about this Frank Lloyd Wright sprite with a missing head. And it was all about our restoration of this
headless sprite. But at the end of the video, we hadn’t replaced
the head. We were focused on this crack system at her
midsection. And yeah, we never did replace the head and
that’s because we were preparing this work for an exhibition that didn’t really require
a perfect restoration. It was for “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking
the Archive.” And so it’s all about how the archive, Frank
Lloyd Wright’s archive, came to MoMA in Columbia, and how we were interpreting the objects in
that archive as sort of raw data. So to the curator, Barry Bergdoll, it wasn’t all that important that presenting this sprite,
we were presenting it as this entire piece because we received a lot of objects that
were in” So you can understand how a partial restoration might be acceptable in this presentation. But that’s not to say that we won’t restore
the head in the future. And I can imagine a lot of different types
of exhibitions where we would want to, like one about Midway Gardens, the project the
sprite came from. And how Frank Lloyd Wright worked with concrete
and how he cast concrete. In that sort of presentation, it might be
nice to show his intended results. Diana: But, if you were to restore the head, you wouldn’t just invent a head right? You would look at a lot of documentation and
other sprites that still exist and… Ellen: Yeah, that’s a good point. There is an abundance of historical evidence
of what that head looked like and other existing heads. So we could definitely use that, molds of
those head scans of those heads to inform how we recreate ours because this one sprite
came from…is one of 20 or so that came from the same mold. So that’s lucky for us. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: If we didn’t have any evidence of the head, then we might not attempt to restore
it, period. I have another live question. Enigma writes, “Is all of the work/restoration
due to age-related reasons? Do things ever happen because of accidents
or anything like that?” Diana: That’s a really good question. Ellen: Is all restoration related to age reasons? Yes, yeah. Diana: Yeah. Ellen: I’d say, I don’t know, a quarter of the works that come to our lab are because
of damages and not because of deterioration. Because of handling or something fell off
of its pedestal due to vibrations. Diana: Yeah, and sometimes age makes an artwork more susceptible to damage. So that’s important to think about. But, yeah, sometimes we do have to fix careless
accidents. Ellen: Accidents. The euphemism we use is “visitor interaction”
for when a work has been damaged due to an overzealous visitor or a clumsy visitor who
was taking a selfie. Diana: Yeah, but that was that’s a really good question. Ellen: Another live question from Devon Colley, “Are either of you and your colleagues practicing
contemporary artists?” No. “And if yes, does being a conservator positively
or negatively impact your art-making career?” Diana: Yes, so I was actually a painter before I became a conservator. Ellen: Really? Diana: Yes, I was an oil painter and… Ellen: Like, figurative or abstract? Diana: I would say figurative but surreal. Ellen: Cool. Diana: But the problem is I’m actually currently still a graduate student and the conservation
program is quite intense and you have to give a lot of your time to it. So in that sense, negatively affected my practice
because I just don’t have time to paint. But I think after I’ve graduated this summer,
I will go back to making art. And I think I’ll honestly keep doing what
I was doing before. Ellen: It’s had no impact on you. Diana: It had no…it’s…I think we learn a lot of traditional techniques during school
so we learn how certain paintings were made, how certain sculptures were made. And I think, yeah, maybe I’ll have picked
up a little bit of that my own practice. But I know…yeah, I know other conservators
are really influenced by, say, old master artists. Ellen: Yeah, and I’m not an artist. I loved my studio art classes, I love working
with my hands and honing a skill. But I always had trouble with coming up with
a concept facing a blank page. That was never my strength and I don’t have
any inclination to create in that way. So conservation is perfect because the art’s
already there and I can work within that framing. But I think it has…I think conservation,
working conservation has impacted the way I view art. I think it makes it much harder just to appreciate
a painting or sculpture. If you can see the damages and knowledge of
the types of damages that can happen and how…what old restoration looks like, I think, really
I can’t un-see that now when I look… Diana: Absolutely. Ellen: …at the work that has any sort of damage. Diana: Well, and I like that point. I think conservation, going through the program
and learning all about materials has really made me love modern and contemporary art so
much more than I did before. Because I’m so much more aware of the importance
of materials and the importance of different techniques and subtle things like that, that
I might not have noticed before. So when you’re in a gallery next time, really
look at the materials and the choices the artist made on how they use those materials. Should we…? Ellen: Cool, yes, should wrap up? I think we’re running out of time. Diana: Should we look at this last? Ellen: Oh, there’s one more. Let’s see. Oh, I see. This is from our producers. We’re new at this. We don’t understand that this was supposed
to be subtle and not read out loud. This is just a note to us. All right. We just wanna give a quick shout out to our
viewers tuning in across the U.S. and internationally. We have viewers from New York City, of course. Diana: South Carolina. Hi. Ellen: Maine. Diana: Turkey. Ellen: India. Diana: And Slovenia. Hi. Ellen: Very cool. Diana: Thanks for tuning in. Ellen: Yeah, thanks so much. Thanks so much for all the great questions
and comments that you guys sent in. Diana: Yeah, and if you enjoyed this video, please check out our other videos in the conservation
playlist. Ellen: Yeah, and keep sending in questions. And to any conservation colleagues who are
watching today, please post any resources that you think might be valuable to pre-program
students, anybody interested in conservation. Diana: If we forgot to say something… Ellen: We certainly we didn’t… Diana: Definitely forgot. Ellen: We didn’t mention the ECPN, Emerging Conservation Professional Network, which is
also a great thing to get involved in. Go to the AIC webpage. But yeah, any conservators watching, link
to resources below or any favorite books, anything you think that would be useful for
an emerging conservator. And yeah, hit that subscribe button below
so that you’ll be sure to catch our next release. Thanks so much. Diana: Thanks so much for watching.


2 thoughts on “LIVE Q&A with MoMA Painting & Sculpture Conservators Ellen & Diana (March 14)

  1. How would identify a artist such as Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Salvador dali. Even though every one says they belong to a certain movement such as cubism, surrealism, pop art. They actually did do more things that most people would know about them. And they did really great things as well

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