Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meeting with the Painting Conservator

Painting conservator Susan Blakney examines paintings by Art Price.

I was unprepared.  It was a hot day in the city and I had a million things to do.  After looking forward to this opportunity for a discussion with painting conservator Susan Blakney for nearly a year, I stupidly delayed all preparations until the last minute and then threw things together in a panic.

This isn’t the way to go about caring for your family collection.  When I rush, I get sloppy.  In order to make my 2 p.m. meeting with Susan, I grabbed the wrong two paintings, wrapped them in bubble wrap, dropped them in a plastic bag, and then ran a dozen city blocks through scorching heat and sweltering humidity.  I arrived sweating and out of breath.

Oil painting of a harvest scene by Art Price.
Of course, Susan Blakney of West Lake Conservators was a consummate professional.  Focusing on the paintings, she quickly moved to a close examination, interpreting them like a detective searching for the clues that would tell the stories behind the damage.  To me, she was unfailingly polite, but – and this may be my imagination or it may be the workings of my guilty conscience – in retrospect I think she may have been a little shocked by my treatment of my father’s paintings that afternoon.  From beginning to end, my actions were a textbook case of how not to treat a painting.

Looking back at my notes, some of her comments now appear a little pointed:

Oil painting of a scene in Noyac by Art Price.
“Think of paintings as an eggshell – easily cracked.”  (And I have to admit that eggs would probably not have survived my dash through the city.)

“Even bubble wrap can abrade.  If you must wrap it in anything, use glassine.”  (These paintings were seriously abraded already.  Who knows how much additional paint flaked off during the wrapping and unwrapping?)

“Never put a painting down
with a jarring motion.  It will loosen more paint.”  (I think Susan may have said this right after I tossed one of the paintings onto the table.)

All very embarrassing…

© 2011 Lee Price

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