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Thursday, May 16 • 9:30am - 10:00am
(Collection Care) Reducing Interaction for Increased Support: Utilizing Balsite® Putty for Spacers in Micro-Climated Warped Panel Paintings

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In Fall 2017, the Painting Conservation Department at The Detroit Institute of Arts undertook an aggressive glazing campaign in the midst of a sizeable loan season. The Painting Conservation team collaborates closely with the mountmaker to create safe and aesthetically pleasing frame packages. A successfully glazed painting protects without being noticeable. Perception and light reflections can be reduced by ensuring an even frame package with minimal space between the painting and glazing. However, it also requires the use of spacers to prevent damage to the paint layer. As part of the loans, multiple warped wooden panels required micro-climating. These can be difficult to successfully glaze as they require uneven and greater spacing between the painting and sheeting. Previously we created custom cut poplar spacers fitted to the warped surface. While we have tried other materials to accommodate for edge irregularities, the poplar strips offered the best fit, good stability during transit, and were the most aesthetically pleasing. Yet this is a time-consuming method requiring significant handling of the object, while also causing multiple trips to different areas within the museum to ensure the best result. In light of the increased workload, we needed to find another method reducing object handling and requiring less labor. We were inspired by David Tils’ 2014 Restauro article proposing Balsite® W & K putty to mold custom spacers for non-glazed warped panel paintings to be in full contact with their frames. Our mountmaker and painting conservation fellow tested molding custom spacers for our glazed warped panel paintings using Balsite® W & K putty. Balsite® W is a proprietary epoxy resin with inert fillers mixed 1:1 with Balsite® K, a modified cyclo-aliphatic polyamine. Balsite® was developed by the Italian Company CTS Srl specifically for conservation use to consolidate wood losses, such as insect tunnels, as well as to replicate missing wood components. Our collaborative method using Balsite® reduces handling the painting to three or four times. Less contact with the art also decreases the amount of labor needed during the time-consuming glazing process. Additionally, unlike the wood spacers, this method does not require shop access or using power tools. These Balsite® spacers also proved to be a material saver, as they simultaneously generate front and side spacers. By creating both spacers, the painting is centered on the first try, thus resulting in a reduction of object handling as well. Additionally, we have found success in utilizing thinned Balsite® to non-destructively address uneven frame rebate warp prior to glazing. This paper will discuss our collaborative experiences using Balsite® W & K putty to create custom spacers for glazed warped panel paintings, while also exploring possible mount and exhibition uses beyond paintings. The results of analytical testing and the use of an epoxy resin within a sealed micro-climate will be evaluated, as well as vibrational impact during loan transit. Finally, we will explore if there is a material manufactured in North America similar to this Italian proprietary material or if it can be reproduced in the conservation lab.

avatar for Blair Bailey

Blair Bailey

Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Painting Conservation, Detroit Institute of Arts
Blair Bailey is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Painting Conservation at the Detroit Institute of Arts. She holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Art History and History from American University, Washington, D.C. and graduated with distinction from the Northumbria University... Read More →

avatar for Dr. Christina Bisulca

Dr. Christina Bisulca

Andrew W. Mellon Conservation Scientist, Detroit Institute of Arts
Christina Bisulca has a BA in Chemistry and Art History (Rutgers University, 1999), an MS in Objects Conservation (Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, 2005),and a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering as part of the program in Heritage Conservation Science... Read More →

James Storm

Mount Designer and Fabricator, Detroit Institute of Arts
James Storm has been the Mount Designer and Fabricator within the conservation department at the Detroit Institute of Arts for the last 15 years. He holds a BFA from the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI. and attended the New York Studio Program, New School of Social Research... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 9:30am - 10:00am EDT
Salon A2-A3, Uncas Ballroom Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Collection Care
  • Track Collection Care
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Blair Bailey, James Storm, Dr. Christina Bisulca
  • Abstract ID 18658
  • Tags Balsite W & K Putty,Balsite,Glazing,Micro-climate,Painting,Frame,Frame spacers,Warped painting,Warped frame,Panel Painting,Wood Panel