Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Buff up your sculpture

Spring cleaning for outdoor art

Express Staff Writer

?El Oro del Rin Grande" by Marta Moreu. Bronze edition of seven. The El Oro is inspired by Wilhelm Richard Wagner's epic four-opera cycle ?Der Ring des Nibelungen.?

As spring hits the Wood River Valley more and more residents start living outside. Revitalizing gardens and cleaning up the spoils of winter becomes paramount as the best part of living in Sun Valley returns once again.

For many, outdoor sculptures are a focal point to their landscaping and an important serenity element for one's garden. Taking care of valuable art or favorite outdoor collectibles is just as important as any other investment.

"Most sculpture I see is bronze and only needs to be waxed once a year," said Robin Reiners, of Gallery DeNovo in Ketchum. "If you don't wax, the bronze does gets richer in color and sometimes that is the artist's intention."

How the metal reacts to weather and the environment depends on the patina, a green film formed on cooper and bronze by exposure to moist air. "A clear coat of wax will do it. I use Johnson's, which I get at Chateau.

"Dust off the sculpture with a cloth and always check on it," Reiners said. "If sprinklers hit it, keep in mind there is calcium in the water here, and that's a good reason to disrupt the patina."

The New England Sculptors Association is a good resource to learn more about the care of outdoor art. In general, bronze sculpture needs very little cleaning and maintenance, however if water no longer beads up on it, the sculpture may need a new coat of wax. It is best to wax sculptures in the heat of the day because it allows the wax to penetrate the sculpture and will last longer. Always use a soft clean rag or a new paintbrush to apply wax and another clean soft rag to buff sculpture after waxing.

Bronze pieces should not rust, but calcium deposits are damaging in Sun Valley just as the salt air can be in coastal regions.

"When you are opening up your garden, it is time to take care of your sculpture and outdoor art. Ceramics can be outside, but only for the season. Take care of them as you would a pot," Reiners said.

Other types of sculpture made from granite or cement can be cleaned with a household cleanser, and a plastic brush can be used to get rid of dirt and some stains. With marble, minerals from rain, soil and the atmosphere can be absorbed and leave stains. Consult a professional for particular damage. If possible, do not to place marble directly on the ground because it will absorb moisture and staining minerals from soil and plants. Using a stand or granite tile for marble sculpture is a good idea.

Sculpture made from plaster, or ones that have been painted, should always be protected from water and dampness, and should be rarely handled to protect the fragile surface. It is not advisable to place a sculpture in an enclosed room with a hot tub or sauna. The extreme humidity and chlorine will corrode metal and form deposits on other materials.

Sun Valley is a very seasonal area, so there is a great deal of outdoor sculpture.

"There isn't a lot of bulk in the winter, so it looks wonderful," Reiners said. "Some sculptures have been created and placed so when the snow builds up, it looks like someone is climbing out of the snow and that is an example of the beauty of outdoor sculpture."

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