Art forces us to slow down and think about what we see.
Liz Magor, 2009
Materials used for creating artwork are more than carriers for ideas or inspiring concepts; materials are links to an artist and how he or she connects with his or her artwork.
Liz Magors liquid silicone rubber casts of selected objects like this old backpack are observed, handled and shaped by the artist in preparation for her mold-making process. These casts are highly detailed, lightweight and flexible versions derived from a process the artist describes as mimed shapes...of those things that have fallen down, and been discarded, and to find in them the allure they had when they were first picked up. Her creations are imbued with a sense of the familiar and a transcendent quality that invites personal connections. The conservator presented with a conceptual work is a highly contemplative and exploratory task.
There is a delicacy to the feel and character of this silicone rubber backpack. It is a pliable form requiring support when handling. The interior of the backpack has been filled and shaped by the artist with a box of Kraft dinner, foam and bubble wrap inserted through a slit on the knapsack. Care is required to prevent the shifting of the interior filler materials and to protect parts of the backpack from folding or bending.
Unforeseen incidents occur no matter how careful one is. The backpacks lower left corner had become detached and folded in areas, including portions of thin and slightly deformed silicone layers. The positioning and weight of the interior items has imparted pressure resulting in a few minor slits and separations. There were earlier unsuccessful attempts to repair the artwork using an adhesive that would not stick.
A challenge for this conservation project was to find an adhesive that would adhere, be strong enough and not harm the artwork. In preparation for repairing the backpack, comprehensive research into different options and adhesives, along with the fabrication of liquid silicone samples for testing different adhesives, was required prior to direct treatment on the artwork. An effective adhesive was sourced that could cleanly secure the detached piece in place, with an interior gusset to reinforce the area. Slits and separations were realigned and stabilized. All repairs involved careful handling and intricate handwork, as the treated areas needed to be supported when reattached, and cured in miniscule sections at a time.
Conservation projects require an analysis of how the artist worked, understanding the materials and processes used and assessing any concerns that relate to an artworks state of stability and condition. A key part of preservation work is the process of looking and evaluating prior to the action of conserving. This is how integrity and successful outcomes are achieved look, think and look some more.