People often travel to Pensacola, Florida for something blue. The “blue” might be enjoying the waters of the Gulf of Mexico with a Blue Curacao inspired cocktail, or to catch a practice session of the world-famous Blue Angels in the Pensacola Bay Area, the official home of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron.
Christina L. Simms, Conservator of Objects and Sculpture, and Emmett Lodge, NACE Certified Industrial Coatings Inspector, of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory traveled to Pensacola to perform a conservation treatment in Florida for Pensacola Pendants, 2020 by artist Larry Kirkland.
The artwork is something new, installed in just March of 2020. Pensacola Pendants consists of two monumental blue glass pendant lights which are suspended in the front atrium of the Pensacola Federal Courthouse. The different sections of each pendant are star-shaped and made of dark and light blue colored glass.
Sections are framed with mirror-polished stainless-steel angle bar. These star-shaped sections descend in size towards the bottom, creating an overall tapered shape. LED strip lights are wrapped around an internal pole, creating a soft glow from the interior of the pendant at night.
The overall form is intended to imply the United States of America flag and armed forces which have an important and historical presence in the area.
The conservation project in Florida required the pendants to be assessed and maintained. Since the bottom of the pendants hang nearly 30 feet in the air, Conservator Simms had to borrow a ladder to perform an examination and general maintenance. While a lift is preferable for this application, modifications to the building post-installation created access limitations.
The McKay Lodge Conservation team, however, is equipped to deal with unusual, challenging, and large-scale projects. Conservator Simms first determined if lighting components were correctly installed and in working order.
She then addressed minor cosmetic issues such the removal of superficial dusts and accretions or smudges on the artwork with both dry and wet-cleaning methods. The mirror-polish stainless-steel elements required special attention using only mild chemicals and non-abrasive methods to keep the surfaces in pristine condition.
In this case of the conservation treatment in Florida of the Pensacola Pendants by Larry Kirkland, careful records were provided by the artist regarding the installation and future maintenance practices; therefore, Conservator Simms was easily able to perform her examination and make recommendations in accordance to the artist’s wishes.
For now though, its been an unusual year and the building which houses the two blue glass pendants has sat either unused or at reduced capacity. Since more visitors means more dust, the frequency of a future cyclic maintenance plan will be best determined when business resumes as usual.
Larry Kirkland was born in 1950 in Port Hueneme, California. A child of a military family he moved throughout the U.S. and abroad. He eventually earned his Masters of Fine Arts degree from the University of Kansas in 1974. His work is found all over the world in a variety of spaces from municipal buildings to transit hubs to cruise ships to urban parks.