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Tuesday, May 17 • 2:00pm - 4:00pm
(Book and Paper) Art on Paper Discussion Group 2016: “Paper is Part of the Picture: Connoisseurship and Conservation Practice'

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Paper Conservators have long relied on a variety of bathing and bleaching methods to reduce discoloration and stains in works of art on paper.  Innovative approaches to aqueous cleaning, in which pH and conductivity are manipulated to target specific problems, or which incorporate gels or alternative reducing agents, have generated a resurgence of interest in the topic. 

While these options may offer new tools for the paper conservator, do we all agree on what the desirable outcome should be? Justifications for cleaning treatments, such as improved contrast between media and substrate, or return to “artistic intent,” are steeped in subjective interpretation, shaped by historic, cultural, and institutional contexts.  Cleaning treatments may significantly alter chromatic and tonal values or remove indicators of artistic practice or historical use, potentially changing the authentic presentation of the work to meet the expectations of the viewing audience. Yet, a non-interventive approach, in which disfiguring stains and discoloration are allowed to remain, may also interfere with the interpretation of a work, and devalue its aesthetic purpose or conceptual meaning. 

As we increasingly strive to integrate our field with those of curators and other scholars, how do we, as conservators, define authenticity in art? What is our ethical obligation to preserve aesthetic/conceptual values in a work when they may be in conflict with the values of historicity? Can we justify an aesthetic gain when long-term preservation is not enhanced, knowing that our perspective may be temporally and culturally biased? Furthermore, in our interactions with curators and other stakeholders, how do we verbalize expectations for paper tone after treatment given the limitations of a common descriptive language, and for which historical descriptors remain the preferred terminology?

This interactive session seeks to explore the complex decision-making process behind treatments employed to reduce or remove discoloration and staining, and hopes to examine the consequences, intended and unintended. 



Rachel Freeman

Paper Conservator, Art Institute of Chicago
Rachel Freeman is an Assistant Paper Conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago. As the museum’s sole conservator dedicated to the treatment of Asian prints and paintings, she has been involved with the conservation of Japanese prints, East Asian scrolls and screens, ancient and modern Indian and Islamic paintings, and thangka. She is a veteran of several gallery renovations and is involved with climate monitoring and storage planning... Read More →
avatar for Cyntia Karnes

Cyntia Karnes

Paper Conservator, Private Practice, Toronto, Canada
Cyntia Karnes is currently in private practice in Toronto, Canada, where she specializes in the conservation of paper and photographic collections for institutions and private clients. Formerly she was a Senior Paper Conservator at the Library of Congress (2003-2014), responsible for the treatment and housing of a wide range of special collection materials, and a co-administrator of the internship program. Prior to that she was an Andrew W... Read More →
avatar for Stephanie Lussier

Stephanie Lussier

Paper Conservator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Stephanie M. Lussier is an independent conservator and conservation educator who has worked in a wide range of settings including fine art museums, regional labs, and library special collections. Stephanie has made a concerted effort to pursue collections-based work and has a strong interest in interdisciplinary projects that enhance the conservation dialogue among conservators and allied professionals. A current IMLS 21st century museum... Read More →

Tuesday May 17, 2016 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Room 510

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