I blogged in January about two murals that we worked on that had a special social message to tell. One is on the Army base in El Paso, Texas and the other is in Houston. The only thing that really connected them to me was their problem of flaking.
In El Paso, Texas you can clearly see Juarez, Mexico on the other side of the freeway… besides the drama of the wall, Juarez’s reputation for lack of law and order are famous and its very interesting to imagine all that goes on over and around that border. Adding to that “vibe” we were feeling was the purpose of our work in El Paso; our mural on the Army Base, Fort Bliss, by World War II prisoner of war, Austrian Crpl Rudolph von Ripper in 1943 entitled “One Nation Indivisible With Liberty and Justice For All” an ideal to be held in the heart of every generation. His perspective was, in part, a product of his hate for the Nazis who had forced him into military service (and his gratitude to be a POW).
Interestingly, the cause of the flaking was magnified significantly by the fact that the mural, at some point about 50 years ago, had a wall built in front of it sealing it in, in order to preserve it against being painted out or…?
Then, un heated/un airconditioned the encasing of the mural resulted in extreme elevated microclimate swings in temperature and humidity when the building was not in use by the military.
The main problem with flaking on murals is that there is always many many more detachments than you can see, called in our industry “blind cleavage.” This mural required out of the box problem solving to preserve the WPA period paint.
The solution was a combination of things; the use of a combination of both low molecular weight and standard use solvent based conservation quality acrylic resins for penetrating consolidation, water based conservation quality acrylic gels in different consistencies, various types of very thin tissues, small brushes, spray equipment, hand irons for setting the flakes once we got the adhesives to penetrate… all these efforts from the hands and minds of 3 experienced art conservators and technicians. It was involved, but successful.
Persistent mold growth from Hurricane Harvey
This amazing public art, “The Contribution of Negro Women in American Life and Education”By John Biggers, painted in the South in 1953, addresses the several, then, unpopular themes of women’s rights, equality of rights for all races including access to public education, freedom of speech, land ownership. This mural is, of course, a heartfelt plea for African American women but was equally applicable for all women of all races.
More than just a decoration, this mural represents the community’s heritage, a legacy and teaching tool for future generations. It’s a memory trigger, to retell history and personal experiences. Its importance to the community in which it was places is huge, but it’s a visual anchor for the State of Texas and the entire nation. Indeed, this artwork is a National Treasure.
While the most apparent problem of preservation was the mold, the detachment of the adulterated oil paint from the “plaster” wall was very worrisome given the spongy consistency after the exposure to water.
Once again, like the mural in El Paso, the blind cleavage gave the art conservators reasons to go back over the surface of the mural again and again and again. The technique to setting the original paint layers was, with some variations, the same as Von Ripper’s mural. #JohnBiggers @BlueTriangleCommunityCenter
The most impressive movie star’s estate ever created
“The Gilded Age”
The Greenacres Mansion, also known as Harold Lloyd Estate, is located in the Benedict Canyon section of Beverly Hills, California. Built in the late 1920s by silent film star Harold Lloyd, it remained Lloyd’s home until his death in 1971. The 45,000 sq. ft estate originally consisted of a 44-room mansion, golf course, outbuildings, and 900-foot (270 m) canoe run on 15 acres (61,000 m2). Greenacres has been called “the most impressive movie star’s estate ever created.”
After Lloyd died, the acreage in the lower part of the estate along Benedict Canyon was subdivided into approximately 14 large home lots. The mansion, on top of its own hill, retained approximately 5 original acres of flat land. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Our interest in this estate is centered on a 1000 sq ft atrium living room called the “Orangerie.” Gorgeously decorated with high quality painted ceiling murals in 1927 and looking out into the gardens, it was a place of soulful relaxation.
Unfortunately, a second floor bathroom flooded and water soaked into the plaster of the Orangerie ceiling and set into motion massive flaking. To underline how difficult it is for a contractor type person to understand what is required to confront the dynamics of interlayer cleavage of paint layers, this ceiling mural’s flaking paint was treated previously 3 times unsuccessfully… and not even addressing the fine white mold covering 80% of the murals!
So, in this case, not only was the flaking a problem, but the previously botched attempts made the work more problematic… to the tune of about 30% more expensive per sq. ft.
So, 3 very interesting historic preservation projects that you would never see as a tourist. And maybe you know something new about flaking paint too!! Stay in touch for interesting places, stories and adventures. In fact, there are some major projects coming “down the pipe”… like, saving “The Biggest Mural In The World?!?!”
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For questions, reach out to us. We are happy to chat: Scott M. Haskins, Oriana Montemurro, Virginia Panizzon 805 564 3438 email@example.com