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Popular sculpture gets a facelift

Joanna Rowntree repairing Between Classes sculpture

Art conservationist Joanna Rowntree spent two days touching up the 7-year-old bronze sculpture "Between Classes." (20K JPG)

Recently art conservationist Joanna Rowntree visited campus to touch up "Between Classes," the painted bronze sculpture donated by The Grainger Foundation and installed in 1994.

After seven years of exposure to the elements, the sculpture was beginning to show some wear, says Karen Walsh, assistant dean of external relations.

Rowntree, who once worked at the foundry that cast the J. Seward Johnson sculpture, spent two days restoring it. "I'm familiar with the process that was used to create this piece, which is important because the paint system that is on there is a very specific paint system," she says.

To begin her work, she contacted the foundry and learned the color codes of the sculpture's paint. It was especially important to learn about the face and hands, she says. "The skin color is a very tricky paint to match, so I needed the actual color code for that because metallics are difficult," says Rowntree.

Once on campus, she "washed" the sculpture to remove dirt and other materials, then touched up chips in the paint. She says that in working with a painted sculpture, reversibility is important because the touch-up paints may change color with varying amounts of exposure to the elements and light. "Whatever I put on can be taken off," she says.

Rowntree holds a master's of science in art conservation from the University of Delaware. Now based in Los Angeles, she restores pieces around the country. One of her most recent restorations occurred at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. "I just worked on a sculpture by Rodin — 'Eve,' " she says.

Because "Between Classes" was in good condition, it was one of Rowntree's easier projects. "It was a straightforward project," she says.

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