© 2020 by Alison Darrow.

Archeological investigations

February 15, 2016



For decades, I’ve been hauling around bits and pieces of old artwork but not taking very good care of it. It's been moldering in dank cellars and warping in hot attics, but today I finally dug it out of its ruined portfolios and started organizing, culling, and photographing it. Thirty years ago (gulp) I was exploring a lot of different mediums.
















At the time I had an unfortunate penchant for choosing non-archival materials: not deliberately, but because they offered possibilities that standard substrates and pigments didn’t. One notable example was a large wedding portrait of my mother, which I painted on transparent acetate, using spray paints and stencils with acrylic inks in gel medium to create a stained-glass effect. Here’s a study on paper for the piece, which lacks the stained glass aspect because it’s not transparent.



After I made this piece, questions about its archival stability led me to discover that acetate breaks down under UV light: the plasticizers in the film volatilize and “evaporate,” leaving the film brittle and vulnerable to cracking. If you’ve ever noticed the top of an old sun-exposed auto seat that’s cracked and flaking, you’ve seen the result of this process. I still have this piece, but it’s been rolled up in a storage tube for all these years. The last time I pulled it out of the tube it was already cracking in places, so I tucked it back and promised myself I would restore it one day. In the ensuing years, the cap on the tube broke, and rodents moved in. I still have the tube, and the piece is still in there, but at this point I’m afraid to disturb the contents until I have a large, empty, flat surface on which I may be able to piece it back together. I still hold out hope that I can salvage aspects of the piece by re-assembling the shards and embedding them in a transparent acrylic medium, perhaps on a metal substrate to retain some luminosity.







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