(Above: Happily Married for 40 Years, Framed: 17" x 15"; Unframed: 8" x 6". Altered anonymous old photo in frame donated to me by Gina Lesslie. Click on any image in this blog post to enlarge.)
My solo show at Sea Islands Art Center on the University of South Carolina-Beaufort's campus has been over for three weeks. Sure ... I'm sending proposals for other opportunities (and if anyone reading this blog post has a location to which I might send a PDF or other material, please let me know!) ... but to date I have no other exhibits scheduled for Anonymous Ancestors. Evenso, I can't stop making more work. I love this work ...every single picture despite the fact that there are now well over two hundred of them. What's another one ... or two ... or three ... especially when two of the images and three of the frames simply walked in the door "begging" to be used?
I'm lucky! Several of my custom picture framing clients donate to my obsession with "old, precious stuff", especially things that otherwise have no good use ... even old pictures of unknown family members. Gina Lesslie is one of the wonderful people. On Monday, she brought three frames ... two of which contained images ... including this large oval image with a brass frame carrying original convex glass. It is impossible for me to get a better photo unless I remove the glass, but it is the glass that truly resonates with me.
For a long, long time 20" x 14" convex glass was a standard in the framing and photography world. When I first started framing (1987), there was one company that had a couple pieces despite discontinuing it over a decade beforehand. It seems that convex glass was popular during the early 1900s but was considered "antique" before the end of the 1950s. I only know of one company still selling it, the Victorian Frame Company in California. Most of the original, antique convex glass is now broken ... but not this piece.
I wanted the work to reflect something important about a traditional childhood. I settled on the lesson every mother teaches her child: Always Tell the Truth.
Gina Lesslie also brought another unique piece of glass for me to "transform" ... if possible. Here's the story: Years ago, one of Gina's relatives had a pastel portrait made by renown artist Michael Del Priore. At the time, it was common to sandwich the chalk pastel between two pieces of glass. The thinking was that the glass would keep the thin paper "flat" and keep the pastel from getting "smudged".
Well, this is NOT quality custom picture framing. Artwork should NEVER come into contact with the glazing material ... EVER! Plus, non-glare glass is horrible. It really doesn't make an image "look better" by eliminating the reflection of the surroundings. Why? Because the mid-20th century non-glare glass was simply a pane with one side "frosted" ... as in a nearly microscopic "texture" meant to diffuse light. It "looks good" when in direct contact with the artwork ... but that's not conservation framing. The further this non-glare glass is from the artwork, the more it also diffuses one's vision ... making the artwork "slightly blurry". Plus, the angles where "glare" would ordinarily occur simply the reflection of "white light", not a clear view.
Anyway, the portrait was sandwiched between two pieces of glass until Hurricane Hugo damaged the house in which it hung ... including the portrait. (1989). The portrait was removed from the frame. At that time, it was noticed that the top layer of the pastel dust remained on the non-glare glass. (Of course it did! That's another really, really good reason why it should never have been touching the glass to begin with!) For some reason, the two pieces of glass were put back into the original frame and kept ... a ghost of the pastel portrait. No one in Gina's family wants this trace amount of pastel, but Gina thought I might be able to "do something". I did.
I tried spraying the pastel with a fixative ... right onto the glass. That didn't really go well. The surface will still smudge. So, I put it back into the frame, added spacers and then a piece of black foam-centered board to which I collaged the word "Ghost" and added a halo cut from gold mat board. The spacers prevent the letters and halo from coming into contact with what is left of the pastel dust. I don't know how long the "ghost impression" will last but it is fascinating to look at it from different angles. Some points of view totally obscure the woman's head. Others really do have a haunting reflection from another era.