Mosaic conservation treatment of Two Worlds Apart, 1992 by artist Ned Smyth was recently performed in Savannah, Georgia by Stefan Dedecek, Conservator of Paintings, Murals, and Polychrome Surfaces, and Emmett Lodge, of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory.

Two Worlds Apart (Culture), 1992, Ned Smyth before removal and treatment

The artwork consists of two glass and stone mosaic sculptures; each is a hollow fiberglass column covered with colorful tesserae set in place with thin-set mortar.  The red column is in the shape of capital and the other green column is reminiscent of a palmetto motif. The colors red (culture) and green (nature) were selected to represent life and growth, and the separate sculptures signify “the balance between two coexisting worlds- nature and culture- a fragile relationship between two powerful forces…” as described on the informational plaque.

Two Worlds Apart (Nature), 1992, Ned Smyth before removal and treatment

In 2017, the two sculptures were treated by Emmett Lodge and Christina L. Simms, Conservator of Objects and Sculpture of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory. The 2017 mosaic conservation treatment was intended to be a cleaning and stabilization of the artworks until they required deinstallation and relocation since the adajcent building would soon be demolished.

In 2019, conservator Simms returned to supervise the removal of the two sculptures, and they were transported to the McKay Lodge Conservation lab facilities for a full mosaic conservation treatment. The artworks were treated for biological growth and dirt and debris was removed.

Concrete was removed around the sculpture to expose the original bottom during deinstallation

Cleaning also assisted in finding any insecure tiles and mortar that required additional treatment. Temporary repairs were removed. New tesserae congruent with the design and color were attached with thin-set mortar which was the artist’s original method. The mosaic conservation was then complete, and the sculptures could be returned; however, a new installation site needed to be selected by the client.

Old tiles are stabilized and new tiles are attached to the surface to match the original design

Meanwhile the demolition project around the Juliette Gordon Low Buildings in Savannah, Georgia continued. The artworks were tightly wrapped in plastic to prepare for their journey from Oberlin, Ohio to Savannah, Georgia. The wrap prevents any tesserae loss. Conservator Dedecek and Lodge carefully reinstalled the two columns.

A forklift is used to unload and place the sculptures in their new locations

Holes were drilled in the concrete sidewalk and threaded rod was installed with epoxy. The sculptures were then placed onto the rods, leveled with shims as needed, and tightened to the sidewalk with nuts and washers.

Concrete forms for the bases are created

Concrete forms were constructed around both sculptures for poured concrete bases following dimensions previously selected. The plastic wrap was left on the sculptures during this process to prevent concrete from adhering to the artwork’s surface. In addition, the protruding threaded rod ends were also wrapped in form release tape to prevent fouling of the threads by concrete. Concrete was poured into the forms, and the surface was given a smooth trowel finish with rounded top corners.

Conservator Dedecek repairs tesserae that became dislodged during reinstall

Conservator Dedecek made minor repairs to tesserare around the base which were loosened by the concrete to complete the treatment. The original plaque which has been repatinated and lacquered was also reinstalled.

Two Worlds Apart, 1992, Ned Smyth after relocation and treatment

After the reinstallation, Two Worlds Apart was relocated just a few feet apart. The sculptures are accessible to the public to enjoy at the Juliette Gordon Low Buildings in Savannah, Georgia steps off Banard Street.