While I always like creating new things, as the years go by artwork is starting to need maintenance. That’s what I spent this week doing. I returned to one of my murals at the Crystal Ballroom to do some major repair work.
When we first painted the murals in 1996, the building had not even begun being renovated yet. We were the first ones to go in. There were some major pluses to this. No construction noise or dust and we were not in anyone’s way. The downside was that it was November and there was no heat or running water. We would look forward to lunches at Cassidy’s where we would eat their wonderful French Onion Soup and warm up.
There is a relationship between heat, moisture, and paint. 1996 was the year we had record rain fall. The Crystal Ballroom is built with a red brick tile that is rather porous. This allowed a certain dampness to occur in the walls. In a heated building this is not a great problem. But the Crystal was not heated, so the walls were cold and damp. This did not allow for optimal adhesion and curing of the paint.
To add insult to injury, a few years later the building was retrofitted for earthquake reinforcement. This involved drilling holes from the roof to the ground through the walls and inserting reinforcing. As they drilled, they ran water down the bits to keep them cool, once again introducing water into the porous walls behind the paintings. Along with the moisture, the vibration of the drilling was also problematic for the old plaster and out new paintings.
A couple of things occurred. Some of the plaster actually came away from its lath. You could see bulges where the plaster had detached and the only thing holding it up was a thin layer of paint. These were very delicate areas and over the years they have cracked and begun to fall off.
The other major problem was that the paint in some areas released from the plaster. It too would be hanging like sheets. These areas have lasted longer than expected, but with time, vibration from the music, and ladders being leaned on them, the paint had begun to crumble and fall off.
Last November, the plasterers came in and knocked out the places where the plaster was no longer connected to the walls and patched those spots. That process left great white areas in several of the murals.
The artists came in and repainted those spots, and also worked on the other damage on the murals. Everyone was able to repair their murals except for me. Both of my murals had extensive damage and I was only able to repair one of them during the window of time that the ballroom was available.
I returned this week to repair the other. I spent the week crawling around on the scaffolding and removing and replacing sections of the painting. In some ways it is a really unsatisfying task, because if you do it right it should look like it was before and no one will ever know you did anything. On the other hand, it is good to have it all back the way it was meant to be.
I think my favorite part was getting to be up close to the painting. I really like this mural and it was nice to be able to see it closely. I paint differently now then I did back then and there are some things that I used to do that I really like. It makes me think about if I could get myself to reincorporate some of those techniques back into my painting style today.
In many ways this week was like visiting with an old friend. It was a good visit.