McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory recently opened its doors for the paintings conservation treatment of artworks by Columbus, Ohio artist Aminah Robinson. The artworks consist of a painting on canvas and two painted doors. The two doors currently at the lab for conservation treatment were once the actual working doors from the artist’s home in Columbus, Ohio. The doors even feature a drop-box style mail box and a peep hole.
While the interior of the doors suffered little damage, the front of the doors had significant condition issues. Stefan Dedecek, Conservator of Paintings, Murals and Polychrome Surfaces, carefully examined the artworks by Aminah Robinson at the McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory just outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
The doors were exposed to the elements, and the bottom sections of both doors suffered water damage. The fibrous board absorbed moisture causing the veneer material to expand then crack, curl, and eventually cleave from the surface along with the paint.
Conservator Dedecek knew that the first step was to consolidate the substrate and flatten the lifting edges of the veneer with a retreatable adhesive.
The process created a flat surface as well as prevented any additional losses. Missing areas were then meticulously filled with a similarly-textured veneer. While the areas of loss were notable in size, enough of the surrounding image was intact allowing Conservator Dedecek to thoughtfully recreate the missing imagery when inpainting.
After treatment, the doors were stable and areas of lifting veneer had been reattached. Losses were no longer visible with the introduction of the new veneer, and the expertly executed inpainting of Conservator Dedecek made the repaired area nearly invisible at a proper viewing distance. The painted doors are just one example of Robinson’s complex artwork as she developed her body of work over six decades.
About the Artist
Aminah Robinson (1940 – 2015) was born, raised and spent most of her life in Columbus, Ohio. Though she was born Brenda Lynn Robinson, the name Aminah, the Arabic word for faithful or trustworthy, was given to her by an Egyptian religious leader that she met while traveling in Africa in 1979.
She grew up in a close-knit family who told her stories about colorful local characters like the Chickenfoot Woman and the Crowman, who carried a pet crow on his head. She also heard stories of her ancestors and their lives as slaves. By blending these folk traditions with formal training at the Columbus Art School (today, the Columbus College of Art and Design), Aminah created her own unique style.
Aminah produced thousands works in a variety of media: pen and ink drawings, cloth paintings, woodcuts, sculptures, quilts, puppets, music boxes and more. Her wide range of materials include charcoal, plastic, metal, glass, clay, found objects, animal skins obtained from a slaughterhouse and a sculptural material called hogmawg that her father taught her to make from mud, pig grease, red clay, crushed brick, sticks, and glue. Her signature artworks are RagGonNons, complex fabric pieces that incorporate other media and take years to research and complete. She never really considered her works finished, but she sometimes conceded that they were sufficiently “resolved” to display.
Often working on her art from 4 a.m. until midnight or beyond, Aminah’s creative output was too much to contain within the confines of canvas and frame and spilled out of her studio into her home. Her kitchen floor contains a complex mosaic of materials, including her son’s baby teeth. She filled both sides of a set of double doors in her home with human and animal figures.
Her work is considered a highlight of the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio. You can read more about the artist here.