The warm and humid weather of southeastern United States is perfect place to raise sugarcane. Though the plant is native to Asia, the tall perennial grass can be found growing in the fields surrounding Houma, Louisiana. It is also where the aluminum kinetic sculpture Cane Dance, by Lin Emery is installed, just outside of the Allen J. Ellender Federal Building and U.S. Post Office in Houma. The aluminum kinetic sculpture features seemingly floating abstracted sugarcane “leaves” which rotate with the wind.
Throughout the years hurricane force winds, severe weather, and simply time have created the need for multiple restorations of the kinetic aluminum sculpture in Louisiana. In the past, components such as bearings and supports have been replaced by Senior Sculpture Conservator Thomas Pondar. The brushed aluminum surface has also been refinished to its original appearance as much as possible.
By 2019, the delicate and beautiful kinetic aluminum sculpture by Lin Emery needed conservation treatment once more. The sculpture had been removed the previous year. After deinstallation it was transported to the McKay Lodge Conservation lab facilities just outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
Restoration of the kinetic aluminum sculpture began with a complete disassembly of all elements, and removal of all the old bearings. Conservator Podnar was assisted by Emmett Lodge of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory for the treatment. All of the former bearings were discarded regardless of condition. New bearings were pressed and adhered into the original bearing blocks. New snap rings were installed to hold the shafts into the new bearings. All of the old snap rings were discarded regardless of condition. Some bearing blocks were damaged, and they were repaired by welding in replacement metal.
The corroded aluminum at the bottom of the six stems was removed to sound metal. New aluminum was cut, and it was welded onto position. Where the original stems had been cut away from their steel mounts on the wall, new stainless steel tubing was welded onto the stainless steel support structure which had been retained inside the stem. These new tubes will be embedded into the cast concrete wall cap during reinstallation.
The treatment reduced most of the surface corrosion with chemical treatment. Overall the surface is greatly improved. Any missing or mismatched hardware was replaced with new stainless steel hex drive countersunk or round head screws, depending on application.
After the restoration of the kinetic aluminum sculpture, it was time to return it to Louisiana. Onsite installation began with removal of the previous mounting system. This system, composed of a steel plate in the bottom of the original core drilled hole, was unusable for the reinstallation. It was removed and discarded by breaking up the poured deteriorating sulfur with a demolition hammer. The original core drilled hole was preserved for reuse.
The aluminum was cut to length leaving them reaching, but not touching, the concrete wall cap. The mounting holes were finished with round river stone to match the existing wall cap, and the sculpture elements were installed onto the stems and tested for movement and position. Black rubber stoppers were pressure fit into the ends of the top elements or skins, mitigating damage if the components impact one another from windy conditions or other external force.
Maintenance recommendations as well as a plan to remove the kinetic aluminum sculpture components during inclement weather in Louisiana were provided. After the restoration of the kinetic aluminum sculpture, Cane Dance once again has a bright surface which is as close to the original surface as possible, the components move seamlessly in the wind much like the leaves of the sugarcane plant.