Thirty years ago, the sculptor Jim Sardonis of Randolph, Vermont created 2 large black granite whale tales entitled “Reverence.” This sculpture spent 10 years in Randolph before being sold and moved to Technology Park in South Burlington. Here it remains today. It was originally meant to anchor a sculpture park but that is yet to come about.
Recently the Preservation Trust of Vermont and the Vermont Community Foundation commissioned Jim to create a larger bronze version. “Whale Dance” was installed in July of 2019 and sits on the same spot where "Reverence" spent its first ten years. As you can see in the photo above, "Whale Dance" is framed by a stunning view of the mountains beyond.
Jim contacted me to remove graffiti. Text in crayon or lipstick pen appeared in 2 areas each about 10" square. I agreed to address this immediately even thought it was the middle of winter, because graffiti is not only damaging and often ugly, it also encourages more graffiti.
Removal was easy. I applied acetone which removes most paint and other markings from metal without disturbing the patina. Acetone can be used no matter how cold the weather. Luckily the graffiti was not etched which would have required much more work.
It took about a half-hour. I removed the graffiti and applied a dark wax at the artist’s request.
In addition to this work, I also inspected the sculpture.
- Related Projects:
- Art Restoration at the US Consulate in Istanbul
- Dusting the Buddha
- Sculpture Repair at the Winfield House
- Sculpture Installation at the US Embassy in Athens
- Art Repair at the Denver International Airport
There are no cracks. About two dozen pits of 1/16" diameter or less appear across the surface. These are not a concern since there's no indication of any penetration below the patina such as green spots or streaks.
There are scuff marks where kids have climbed over the wide lower surfaces.
A light green sheen appears on the surface indicating that weather may be causing slight oxidation. The artist informed me that this is by design. It makes the dark surface feel more organic and alive. This is surprisingly effective and a wonderful treatment I never saw before.
The sculpture is embedded in the hillside. The foundation is hidden under the surface of the ground.
I recommended signage which is proven to reduce vandalism. I also suggested coating the entire surface with a polymer for added protection.
Why Coat Bronze
Wax is traditionally used to coat bronze sculpture. This protects it from conditions that harm the surface, such as bird droppings, salt air, and acid rain.
I recommend a polymer coating rather than wax for outdoor sculpture. It seals small cracks and pits, and is less expensive to apply and maintain. Most importantly, it lasts as much as 10 years whereas wax lasts less than a year outdoors.
Most conservators now use polymer coatings. This is the best recommendation of all since the conservation industry is quite conservative. Conservators are not known for using products that are only 30 years in use!
This treatment restores a ‘new’ look which is virtually identical to an original dark brown bronze patina. The degree of 'satin' can be adjusted by the manufacturer to match whatever an artist intends.
Plus, no maintenance is required other than wiping with a cotton cloth and tap water. When the coating fades, just reapply a new one without removing the old - it 'self-anneals'. Anyone with painting skills can do it. Apply is by brush or wiping - it 'self-levels', meaning it will not streak. Two coats last up to 10 years depending on weather conditions. Polymers are so durable that I offer a 5-year warranty to my clients.
I plan to coat “Whale Dance” in the spring.
Update - May, 2020
Before I coat it later this month when it's warmer, I did a test of several shades of the satin Everbrite coating in order to exactly match the finish of the sculpture. The artist joined me to give it his eye as well - we stayed 6' apart and wore masks.
We agreed on a satin tone that's 1/4 of the usual chemical mixture. We also tested brush vs wipe. The coating takes only 20 minutes to dry to the touch, 60 minutes between coats.
I called Everbrite and they just shipping a custom batch. The Everbrite company is very responsive to custom orders. They mixed and shipped it out the same day.
Our governor, Phil Scott, is slowly opening businesses state-wide. Those with up to 10 employees can reopen as long as customers and employees stay 6' apart and wear masks. Restaurants and schools and movie theaters are not yet allowed. My one-person business is good to go.
I plan to apply two coats as recommended, and another 2 over the lower sections where kids climb, for added protection. I'll inspect yearly for free as I do for all my clients, but I expect the When I coating to last 7-10 years.