New tech­nol­ogy aims to slow dam­age to artist Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe works

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - NEWS - BY MOR­GAN LEE

SANTA FE, N.M. — Chem­i­cal re­ac­tions are grad­u­ally dark­en­ing many of Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe’s fa­mously vi­brant paint­ings, and art con­ser­va­tion ex­perts are hop­ing new dig­i­tal imag­ing tools can help them slow the dam­age.

Sci­en­tific ex­perts in art con­ser­va­tion from Santa Fe, N.M., and the Chicago area an­nounced plans last week to de­velop ad­vanced 3-D imag­ing tech­nol­ogy to de­tect de­struc­tive buildup in paint­ings by O’Ke­effe and even­tu­ally other artists in mu­seum col­lec­tions around the world.

Dale Kronkright, art con­ser­va­tion­ist at the Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe Mu­seum in Santa Fe, said the project builds on ef­forts that be­gan in 2011 to mon­i­tor the preser­va­tion of O’Ke­effe paint­ings us­ing high-grade images from mul­ti­ple sources of light. That pre­vented tak­ing phys­i­cal sam­ples that might dam­age the works.

De­struc­tive buildup of soap can emerge as paint­ings age. It hap­pens as fats in the orig­i­nal oil paints com­bine with al­ka­line ma­te­ri­als con­tained in pig­ments or dry­ing agents.

The Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe Mu­seum first grew alarmed about soap pro­tru­sions to its col­lec­tion in 2011, when a trav­el­ing ex­hibit re­turned with vis­i­ble dam­age that couldn’t be linked to vi­bra­tions or jostling, Kronkright said.

“Left unchecked, they will con­tinue to grow, both grow in num­ber and grow in size — and in dam­ag­ing ef­fect,” he said.

He es­ti­mates five paint­ings in the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion have ob­vi­ous dam­age linked to soap for­ma­tion, while 90 per­cent of all O’Ke­effe paint­ings are sus­cep­ti­ble.


Dale Kronkright, head of con­ser­va­tion at the Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe Mu­seum, stud­ies an oil paint­ing by O’Ke­effe for signs of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in Santa Fe, N.M., Fri­day.

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