Conservator Hugh Shockey works on Eversley's sculpture Untitled.
Did you know that sandpaper technology has improved over the past 40 years? Neither did I until I spoke with objects conservator Hugh Shockey about Frederick Eversley's Untitled, a sculpture he was treating in his lab. He told me Eversley received an engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon and even worked for NASA for a short time but changed career paths at the age of 25 to become an artist in California.
This sculpture is made of cast polyester resin that was spun (in its liquid form) into the resulting concave shape. After it solidified, the surface was polished by the artist working up to the finest grit sandpaper available in 1974. The artist then power polished the surface with his hand blended polishing compound to achieve the final mirror surface.
During Hugh's preparatory treatment research, he found a 1976 hand-written memo indicating the artist had used 600A grit sandpaper to correct a minor flaw. As part of the treatment for this piece, Hugh needed to re-sand and re-polish the surface to the artist's intended pristine condition. While he could have used the finest grit sandpaper on the shelves today, he might lose, as some would say, "the soul of the artwork." Hugh wanted to stay true to the art and the artist, so he contacted Eversley to talk about re-surfacing his work.
After considering the artist's advice, Hugh chose to use the same sandpaper grits available in the 1970s. However, because the artist's historic polishing compound is no longer available he improvised the final buffing with a combination of finer modern grits and polishing compounds while being careful not to polish away the sanding pattern of the artist's original finish.
This sculpture is on view as part of the African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond exhibition which will on view through September 3rd, 2012.