Friday, January 21, 2011

Turtle washing

For those of you near and far wondering what it's really like in a museum, here is a photo of some behind the scenes glamor:

We've had a week with some tensions.  While it's great fun to work with Henrique -- he really is as nice as he seems in the videos -- we've been waiting anxiously for his other artworks and materials to arrive from Brazil.  The trademark feature of Henrique's sculptural installations is his use of tapumes, weathered wood used as fencing material across his home town, Sao Paulo.  So, Henrique and his team of helpers finished the understructure for his towering, tangled "Bololo" but then we couldn't move forward because he didn't have the Brazilian wood he needed to proceed.  So, yesterday he took a break.  Today, he returns to experiment with stains and pigments before the shipment arrives tomorrow.  Once it arrives, we will have roughly 500 pounds of old, splintery, fungus-adorned Brazilian scrapwood that Henrique will paint, soak, peel into strips and use to coat his sculpture in brushstroke-like patches of wood.  Here's where the turtle comes in.  we didn't have anything big enough to soak the wood in to make it pliable for wrapping around the sculpture.  So, I snagged my kids' big plastic turtle sandbox.  It took some negotiating, but my four year old agreed to share.  I drove the turtle into the museum's loading dock and as I lifted the turtle out of the car, realized how filthy it was.  What you are seeing is the illustrious Steve Mellor, Chief Conservator and Associate Director for Collections and Facilities, washing the turtle while I laughed and took pictures.  The no longer dirty turtle has now taken up its new home in the gallery.

The other good news is that Sandile is at the airport in Johannesburg and should be arriving tomorrow.  Although Sandile created all of the artworks that will be on view specifically for this exhibition and in response to Henrique's work, he made them in South Africa.  As you can see from the photo below, his chosen medium of fire poses some risks.  Since we couldn't get permission for him to burn here in the museum, he made the works and shipped them ahead.  We installed the thrid of his "paintings," "Large Colon(y) Brownprint" yesterday.  Today, we start rubbing the object labels on to the wall.  Once Sandile comes into the museum, he can install the fourth work of art, a floor sculpture called "Spinal Diagnosis - a regenerate case no.2" and begin to meet with regional art students, radio and press.

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