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Public Art Conservation, Coatings Research and Refinishing, Outdoor Sculpture Conservation:

In an open atrium located by the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at 7th and M Street Northwest in D.C., Transit, 2007 an abstract sculpture by artist Wendy M. Ross hangs high above passersby. The artwork features several large aluminum rod globes and aluminum beams suspended at different heights and angles; its elements almost producing an organic presence within an otherwise urban landscape.

McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory regularly performs conservation assessments and art conservation treatments in the Washington D.C. metro area. During a 2014 assessment of the aluminum sculpture Transit, it was observed that a clear coat on the beams had become severely yellowed due to Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. The globe elements were in good condition. Nearly four years later, while the globes remained in good condition, the failure of the clear coat on the pipe beams had only worsened. In fact, the coating had become arguably disfiguring to the work of art, significantly altering its original appearance.

It was necessary to deinstall the artwork due to the type of treatment required and the highly public location. Working under conservator supervision, the beams and globes were removed and transported to the conservation lab facilities in Oberlin, Ohio. At our conservation lab facilities just outside of Cleveland, Ohio we are able to store, blast, strip, and recoat sculpture on-site.

The first step in the conservation treatment was to match the original color with a new paint system made by PPG. Emmett Lodge, a National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) certified industrial coatings specialist, was able to establish a close match by applying a new color next to an area of the beam which was concealed from light exposure and, therefore, not discolored. The next step was to remove the failed, yellow coating by abrasive blasting to bare metal. A water impermeable primer coat and metallic base coat was then applied. Finally, Lodge applied a UV-resistant clear coat also made by PPG.

The beams were reinstalled with original hardware. Missing or damaged plastic isolator sleeves, which create a barrier between beams where they join at the couplers, were replaced. This helps to prevent galvanic corrosion. Transit, originally commissioned by the D.C. Arts and Humanities Commission, can be viewed once more suspended high above the sidewalk near the Mt. Vernon Sqaure Metro Station.

The artist Wendy Ross has nearly three decades of experience creating art for publicly and privately commissioned works throughout the country. Her studio, Ross Sculpture Studio LLC, handles all aspects from concept to installation. She is now a full-time sculptor and regularly sought after for producing her unique biogeometric designs.

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