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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Backstage Pass

So-called art restoration is at least as tricky as brain surgery. Most pictures expire under scalpel and sponge. ~ Alexander Eliot


I honestly don't know how I'm going to be able to go back to work on Monday.

This Staycation has been so full of cool little adventures that I literally have not had time to process them all, let alone post them.

(Yes, this is a Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait.)


Behind this secret white door is the paintings conservation lab at the de Young Museum.

You might remember my friend T., who is an art conservator at the museum. Actually he works on paintings for most of the fine arts museums in the city. Last year he was kind enough to take me on a tour of the labs. Now it looks like we might collaborate on a project together, making a book about how paintings are conserved. A book for kids. We're both really excited about it.

So today I came back to the labs and spent half the day there, watching, observing and learning more and taking over 300 photos.


This is just a fraction of what I took pictures of. I'd add more but I've also been invited to a movie night with the art conservators. We're going to have chicken curry and watch Lust for Life, the Vincent van Gogh biopic starring Kirk Douglas. I think watching this movie with a bunch of art conservators will be pretty interesting and I bet there will be some fun commentary.

I won't be able to add much to the discussion, so I'm bringing the ice cream.

The last post I did about T. and the paintings, with some other great photos, is here.


d smith kaich jones January 21, 2009 at 6:02 PM  

OMG! This is my fantasy vocation! After I became a photo retoucher, I used to fantasize about learning to be an art conservator. Sign me up for your book, whether it's for children or adults. I am actually quite chidlike about the whole process, so either way will be fine.

How jealous I am of you!
How wonderful!

:) Debi

Silliyak January 21, 2009 at 6:32 PM  

You seem to be adjusting well to your new circumstances. If you haven't seen the DaVinci exhibit in SJ, it closes the 25th. Saw it today, cool!

Char January 21, 2009 at 7:42 PM  

wow - what a beautiful and interesting privilege!!! and I love that movie by the way.

the joint venture sounds like a great project.

Just Jules January 21, 2009 at 8:57 PM  

Secret projects...how fun, no wonder you don't want to go back to work (I mean who does?!) I look forward to further updates.

Blue Sky Dreaming January 21, 2009 at 9:44 PM  

This is exciting news. How wonderful to put together this book...your photography is clearly having a life of it's own...congratulations on the opportunity!!

The Pink Cowboy January 21, 2009 at 10:09 PM  

What a fascinating tour. Art conservation is very difficult. I saw a documentary on PBS about restoring the original Stars and Stripes that flew over Ft. McHenry in Baltimore and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem, it took years to do it! Amazing stuff.

Anonymous January 22, 2009 at 12:00 AM  

Your life just keeps getting better and better TB!

julochka January 22, 2009 at 12:09 AM  

another fabulous project in the wings...good for you making the most of your staycation!! me, i've just eaten like a maniac and had way too much wine!!

A Cuban In London January 22, 2009 at 1:26 AM  

Thank yuo very much for this little snippet of art restoration/conservation.

Greetings from London.

jeanne January 22, 2009 at 2:04 AM  

The Pialat movie "Van Gogh" isn't bad. I really enjoy your around-the-bush interests. From butter monoliths to art conservation... how fun to see you flash your different fans.

Michelle January 22, 2009 at 2:36 AM  

Lucky you! Great photos and post! :)

Adan January 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM  

you are like toto. you pulled back the curtain on what really happens behind the scenes at the art museum.

very fantastic!

Laura Doyle January 22, 2009 at 5:54 AM  

How lucky you are! It's always nice to have friends that do such intriguing things.

I'm so glad you've been enjoying your staycation. I'm thinking of taking one myself. : )

rochambeau January 22, 2009 at 6:04 AM  

This is so cool Tangobaby!!
Please thank T for letting us peek into his secret world. Your book idea is is good one. His door reminds me of where I took art classes as a child in the Museum.


Yoli January 22, 2009 at 6:29 AM  

OH I WOULD JUST DIE IF I GOT TO SEE THIS BACKSTAGE!!!!!!! Girl, you just don't understand the love I have for paintings and restoration! I will buy the book for my children. Oh this is heaven to look at!

Mari January 22, 2009 at 7:09 AM  

That was really fascinating... thanks for taking us along! If only I could taste the curry.

Gabby January 22, 2009 at 8:55 AM  

Wow. I'm amazed. You have a knack for getting at everything your heart desires, dontcha? I'm green with envy. Looking at that restoration work is like having a ringside seat to a heart transplant. Without the gore, I mean. The gore is what Kirk Douglas does to his ear. =)

christina January 22, 2009 at 9:29 AM  

Simply, glorious! Art, curry, ice cream and good company. What's not to love about that!
; )

Dutchbaby January 22, 2009 at 11:09 AM  

When I saw these photos I thought, "Hey, I know these paintings". You are blessed to be able to look over the shoulder of this master.

I'm excited for you about the book. It sounds like a great collaboration!

paris parfait January 22, 2009 at 11:26 AM  

Oh what fun! I got to watch a painting being restored at the National Gallery once, but nothing as expansive as your experience. A children's book on the subject sounds terrific. So glad you've having fun (while learning) on your staycation! xoxox

msHedgehog January 22, 2009 at 1:11 PM  

You're just so interesting. I love the staycation.

I want to know about all the paintings now.

Tess Kincaid January 22, 2009 at 2:30 PM  

This is absolutely amazing. I have always been intrigued by art restoration. Wow, it's so high tech now.

Kirk Douglas is great in Lust for Life. I can't believe how much he actually looks like him, too!

Anonymous January 23, 2009 at 7:50 AM  

all i really have to say is woah on the art restoration.

and then the biopic of van gogh, hmm, i'll have to check it out.