Tagged: art nurse

Ask the Art Nurse: One word, plastic.


We have several Arman Lucite boxes with objects suspended within layers. Many of the “boxes” have yellowed. Is there someway to restore them to remove the discoloring?

Mellow Yellow


I take it that you are referring to one of the sculptural “accumulations” produced beginning in the early 1960s by the French-born American artist Pierre Armand Fernandez who went by the moniker Arman. These compositions of objects were placed by the artists either into acrylic (Lucite being a brand name for cast acrylic, much like Plexiglas) or cast directly into polyester resin.

The question here is which type of object do you have? If it’s the acrylic variety, there’s a good chance that the yellowing is a surface discoloration or even an accumulation of dirt that a conservator might just get lucky enough to be able to reverse. If it’s polyester, it’s more likely to be an irreversible photochemical condition caused by exposure to light or poor catalyzation (as in: Part A was not mixed correctly with Part B and it didn’t set right when it was made) — or any number of other factors. A pro might have a chance of reversing it, but my guess it’s more or less a snowball’s chance in hell since polyester resins, like ladies from Beverly Hills, aren’t exactly known for aging gracefully.

In any case, I don’t recommend you taking a stab at this yourself.  Chances are you’ll stain it or make the plastic cloudy or sticky — or poison yourself in the process.  This one calls for a professional.  You can find a live and willing Art Nurse in your area on the website of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Cool looking as they are, plastics are tricky materials to safeguard. Though there are no hard and fast rules for maintaining them in museum-quality condition, one thing that always helps is keeping them away from sunlight. And heating ducts, extreme cold, dog hair, cat hair and commercial cleaners not specifically tested for the plastic in question. And whatever you do, don’t ever smoke around them, no matter how good the bud.

San Suzie

Have a question for the Art Nurse? E-mail her at suzie [at] c-monster [dot] net.

Ask the Art Nurse: How to get chewing gum off your art (and your shoes).


I’m a New York City-based arts blogger who recently invested in a pair of righteous grey-felt sneakers — a purchase that may have been subliminally inspired by a recent visit to the Joseph Beuys installation at the Dia Beacon.

Well, on my first day wearing my smokin’ new kicks, I stepped on a giant wad of chewing gum. Not realizing that I was sporting this sticky parasite, I then paid a visit to a prominent Manhattan arts institution, where I stood on a brand-spanking-new rug that was intended as a fuzzy stage for all manner of cutting-edge relational aesthetics (i.e.: thing to sit on and talk). It was at this moment that I discovered that my foot was attached to the rug by a string of chewy chicle. In good starving-writer fashion, I quickly made for the exit.

My question is this: How do I remove the gum from the tight tread of my insanely rad footwear? And what suggestions would you have for the venerable downtown arts institution that may find itself with a mess of Double Mint smashed into their social sculpture?

Love your work,
Hapless in Brooklyn


First of all, you can’t write to me mentioning something as sublime as felt sneaks without a picture. So pony up and tell me also where you got them. [Hapless in Brooklyn has acquiesced with the image at right, though she refuses to reveal her retail sources.]

Secondly, in this case, ice is your best friend. Rub a cube on the gum until it gets hard, then take a knife and chip away as much as possible without hurting the rubber sole, of course. The residue can be cleaned off with ethanol (denatured alcohol) or acetone (nail polish remover) on a Q-tip. Test a discreet area first to make sure the solvent does not dissolve the shoe bottom.

The same is prescribed for the venerable arts venue. However, they will have to work around the fuzz (e.g. possible hedge-trimming) and might face issues of discoloration if using a solvent. It’s the type of tricky work, naturally, that is best left in the hands of a pro.

San Suzie

Have a question for the Art Nurse? E-mail her at suzie [at] c-monster [dot] net.

Ask the Art Nurse: A crumbling work on drywall


I’m an avid follower of C-Monster and have an art conservation query: Before shuttering their doors for good, my favorite street art gallery in Brooklyn invited the public to help demolish some of their walls. As the walls were painted with murals by notable artists, this was an attractive proposition.

Happily, I am now in possession of a heavy, largish chunk of painted drywall. However, the drywall is awfully fragile – the piece was not so delicately hammered out of the wall – and I’m wondering how best to stabilize it and prevent further crumbling. It goes without saying that I do not have a museum-scale art conservation budget.

Your advice, please?



My two favorite things on earth are hunks of concrete buildings and graffiti, so you are talking about restoring something quite dear to my heart. It would be helpful to know if the damage you are talking about consists of fragmenting edges or wholesale cracking of the piece itself. If it’s the former, what we conservators would do would be to consolidate the edges of the fragment. This means applying some kind of adhesive in thinned down form that would solidify the edge and keep if from crumbling. The trick is to do this using something that will not stain or damage the original and — most importantly — could be removed and redone. In other words, making it reversible, in case you screw it up.

If you are talking about big breaks in the piece, however, then you are looking at something called a structural repair — and that requires a bit more thinking through. So first tell me which it is. Also tell me if the area to be repaired has paint on it or not. (Or feel free to send me a link to a photo.) And then I can give the patient a proper diagnosis.

San Suzie

Have a question for the Art Nurse? E-mail her at suzie [at] c-monster [dot] net.