I have, for a long time, always enjoyed being that person whom my friends and colleagues could come to with their problems. Either with work or personal, to be the support they needed; especially when it came to heavy lifting. Time and again I have been complemented by many of my peers as being “f…ing awesome”, “my savior” or “you the man”. Well this lead me to putting those herculean muscles to use and I sought out an internship at the Museum of Fine Arts (MoFA). My experience this semester working with Wayne Vonada at the MoFA has been a very lite and joyful education on what it is like to be a museum preparator. With his comedic charm and razor sharp wit, Wayne would take us around the museum as we would prepare for one of the biggest art shows of the year, the Cuban Art Exhibit. This exhibit consisted of a 140+ paintings from every art movement throughout Cuba’s history. This, for me, was an opportunity to handle works of art that were historical as well as culturally significant and priceless. We began by unpacking and spacing the paintings (very tightly) throughout the museum to determine how we would be hanging the work on the walls. Wayne was able to show me how to center every painting at the “magic line of sight number of 60,” as well as gridding multiple pieces on a wall with equal margins all around. This was quite handy with putting up the artist name tags, hanging the vinyl exhibit headers and the different section titles. Once this was determined we began to contemplate securing the paintings to the walls as an added security measure. One was a simple “S” bracket which one could attach with screws to the frame and then to the wall. The other, which we chose to do, was to take thin steel cable, washers and crimping fasteners to create a snare around the hanging wire on the back of the frames while attaching the wire to the wall with a screw.
After the Cuban Art Show we moved onto the downstairs gallery in preparation for the Builder Levy and the Dahl, Lottie & William Lee Pryor shows. The Levy exhibit was as simple and straight-forward as an installation could be. The show consisted of a variety of black and white photographs of different size framed in basic black aluminum frames with white matte board. As for the arrangement, we just simply hung the photos side by side at the calculated height with 8” margins between each piece. In adjacent gallery to the Levy show, we had the Dahl, Lottie & William Lee Pryor exhibit. The Pryor collection consisted of 40 eighteenth-century Hogarth’s, two Russian icons and an antique Chinese cabinet. These piece we hung much like we did the Cuban art exhibit. The paintings had as elaborate crown molding frames as some of the Cuban pieces. One really cool aspect of this was that everything in the show had gold paint or touches of gold incorporated within. In the end, this gave the gallery space a spectacular golden ambiance.
The next week we headed to the William Johnston Building (WJB) to install the “#tumblingbodies #academiccatographies” show in the first floor gallery. With this particular show we had to arrange the gallery space ourselves, specifically the walls. One of the really cool features of this gallery is that it comes with mobile walls and we were able to arrange them in any configuration to suit any individual show. Each wall section connects to another with two four pronged brackets at the top and bottom of each piece. The sections themselves weigh roughly 40lbs and we were only able to connect 3 or 4 sections together before stability became an issue. To help prevent said issue, we had to attach what is called a leg segment to the main group which is basically just another panel connected off the main group at a 90 degree angle. We ended up having 2 “L” shaped wall segments for this particular show offset from one another. Once the walls were in place we began to set up the show in accordance to the floor arrangement.
Finally, once we uninstalled the Cuban, Levy and Pryor exhibitions, the show I had been anticipating all semester long had arrived: the BFA/MFA Thesis show. This is the show, for a lot students, considered to be “The” show. It is the show at the end of every semester where the graduating students get to showcase their thesis. It can get pretty personal, not just for the artists but myself included. These weren’t just my colleagues, but my friends and I had the opportunity to help them set up for their final show. For the most part, the students were pretty self-reliant. Most of them have had experience setting up, installing and arranging their own work in a gallery space. For this reason, Wayne assigned me to basic duties such as spackling and spot painting the walls and being a helping hand to anyone who needed it. Throughout installations week, I jumped around hanging a few paintings, suspending wire, gridding out work and putting up installations. I had spent at least two whole days installing one artist’s work with them. I was able to witness the level of attention to detail they put into every piece, giving them all purpose and individuality. One piece couldn’t exist without the other surrounding pieces. Through this process, I finally got to see what I considered to be the actual artwork. It wasn’t so much the physical piece itself but the actual work the artist put into it. Having me move and prop them up till they were just right, for me, that was the artwork.
To conclude my experiences I finally got to have a semester where I could focus more on the education and research rather than productivity. As a BFA student, this has been rather refreshing and enlightening. My eyes were opened to the indulgence of the chocolate Sunday itself rather than just the so called “cherry on top”. For me, I saw the artwork itself as the cherry on top of the Sunday, the focal point sure. However, below the cherry, the layers of ice cream with all the delicious fixings along with the richness of the hot fudge are what gives the Sunday its definition and ultimately its worth. I learned that there is so much more to the inner working of what goes on behind the scenes from which the stage is built to give the artwork its notoriety. Working with Wayne and those at MoFA has enriched my experience as an artist and given me a full understanding of what an actually work of art looks like rather than just some painting on a gallery wall. I wish share my experiences and enlighten more people to explore more around the corner than just what is presented right in front them. As I go up to Pittsburg for the summer to network with other galleries, I will take my experiences with me and share my knowledge to the best of my abilities with others. In hopes, I come back with the knowledge of those I share mine with.