Art Conservation is a Superpower

From Summer 2012

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I have the power of resurrection. (well…kind of)

In reality, I am a student. Of life. Of love. Of art.

Nearly 3 years ago, I began a journey in Switzerland that let me literally ‘put my hands all over’ the remnants and legacies of the past. Art conservation: an unknown world to many that surrounds us everywhere. Monuments from centuries ago to murals from only the year before–they are all a part of this web of moments in history that construct the societies and cultures in which we live, and everyday….I get to save them. I get to bring them back from death, from their elimination on the timeline of life.

Perhaps that sounds a bit dramatic (and it probably is), but until you touch the paint of a 600 year-old fresco with your own fingertips, when you can say you’ve felt the grooves of the artist’s brush moving beneath them like the plaster was still wet and fresh, and you have spent countless hours painstakingly reattaching micro-flake by micro-flake of paint like a surgeon stitching a suture in the OR, then and only then, can you judge my passion.

DSCN0998Climb the scaffolding and envision the sight before you: rich blues, greens, reds, and golds, painted with such beauty it is almost too much to breathe in at once. Hold onto the realization that these paintings are only shadows of their original splendor, and be struck with awe all over again.

Feel the pain in your heart, where missing pieces and damages gape out at you like evil eyes burning. They know your intentions and do not want to let you win the battle of resurrection. As you work, as you move through the motion of healing, cleaning, and restoring, the art develops its own personality, its own life force. You speak to it. You caress it. It becomes part of who you are.

 

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When you’ve finished your work and must move on, there is a sadness like the letting go of a child into the great unknown world. You must place it in the hands of strangers, people who do not know your child as well as you do, in hopes that it survives, that it will endure over many more centuries of time for those who will come after.

When you can begin to see these places, monuments, and art in this way, the awareness of their presence in our everyday lives will never leave you. You become bound to a responsibility to save and preserve these pieces of our history and culture, so they are not lost and buried in dust. You’ve been given an obligation that you must fulfill.

You have been given a superpower, and it is a power you cannot waste.

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