Author Archives: Angie Elliott

About Angie Elliott

Angie Elliott is the Associate Objects Conservator at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She discovered conservation as an undergraduate student excavating a Roman mosaic in Turkey and has been hooked ever since. She received her Masters in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College in 2005.

BMA Voices: Look up!

Behind a set of bronze doors at the BMA is a sculpture that few people get a chance to see. Angela Elliott, Associate Objects Conservator, introduces a secret gem in the BMA collection.

Naum Gabo. Construction. 1951. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Saidie A. May, BMA 1951.148.1. The works of Naum Gabo © Nina Williams

Naum Gabo. Construction. 1951. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Saidie A. May, BMA 1951.148.1. The works of Naum Gabo © Nina Williams

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: George Rickey’s “Seesaw and Carousel”, 1956. A stopmotion animation.

Angie Elliott, Associate Objects Conservator

George Rickey’s Seesaw and Carousel (1956) is the artwork that I’m most excited for you to see when the American Wing reopens. This large, colorful, and delicate mobile has been in storage for decades and in the conservation lab for over a year. Commissioned by the Museum in 1955, it was last seen by the public during the Guggenheim’s Rickey retrospective exhibition in 1979. The fragile paint surfaces had to be carefully stabilized and preserved before it could be reassembled. Using the artist’s hand written and drawn instructions, we put it together as a trial run to make sure that it was ready to go for the big installation. Make sure you stop and look up when you visit the newly installed galleries in November.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

BMA Voices: Why is the BMA stockpiling fluorescent lamps?

Dan Flavin. Untitled (To Barnett Newman for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"). 1993 1994. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Caplan Family Contemporary Art Fund, and Collectors Circle Fund, BMA 1993.210. © Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Dan Flavin. Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”). 1993-1994. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Caplan Family Contemporary Art Fund, and Collectors Circle Fund, BMA 1993.210. © Stephen Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Angie Elliott, Associate Objects Conservator

The Museum has a stockpile of fluorescent lamps (bulbs) that are so important that we keep them stored away in a vault. While I used to think of cubicle-laden offices and big box stores when I thought of fluorescent lighting, now my mind goes to the challenges of preserving contemporary art.

Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”), 1993-1994, is the reason we have such an important collection of lighting supplies. His installation of red, yellow, and blue fluorescent lamps lights up a corner in the back of the Contemporary Wing. Using both long and short lamps, the work forms a column that stretches 24 feet from the second floor through the ceiling to the third floor. The light reaches beyond the physical lamps and ballasts and transforms the surrounding space and architecture. I love that I can walk by the museum at night and catch glimpses of this light bouncing from this rear corner through the large glass windows in the front of the Contemporary Wing.

Flavin uses an everyday and familiar technology in an unfamiliar way, but what happens when the everyday and familiar are no longer that? Lighting technology is rapidly changing to keep up with new environmental and energy regulations. If you’ve bought a light bulb in the past few years, you’ve noticed that how quickly those changes are happening. We’ve gone from incandescent to compact fluorescents in just a few years with LEDs quickly coming on the scene. The fluorescent lamp as we know it will likely disappear in the future… so how does that affect Dan Flavin’s art?

Museums and collectors have already faced challenges as lamp colors have varied over time. Colors have shifted as different manufacturers take on what a red, yellow, or blue should be. Dan Flavin’s Estate has taken an active role in dealing with the issues of aging lamps and technology. Ten years ago, we joined with other museums and collectors to have our lamps specially produced. Never fear – our Flavin should remain unchanged for years to come, but we do have challenges to face in the coming decades.

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BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Reproduction, including downloading of ARS licensed works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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BMA Voices: The mysteries of ancient mosaics

Sea Thiasos. Syria (present day Turkey). 2nd century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Antioch Subscription Fund, BMA 1937.123

Sea Thiasos. Syria (present day Turkey). 2nd century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Antioch Subscription Fund, BMA 1937.123

Angie Elliott, Associate Objects Conservator

Although my knowledge of centaurs isn’t extensive, I admit that I had never heard of an ichthyocentaur before seeing this mosaic. A human torso, horse legs, and fish fins make for an interesting creature. This is just one of the mythical creatures depicted in the Sea Thiasos mosaic. Erotes (cupids) mix with nereids (sea nymphs) that ride on long, curling centaur fish tails. It’s a spectacular scene that once graced the floor of a colonnade between a pool and dining room in a villa near the ancient city of Antioch in Turkey.

When I look at our ancient mosaics as a conservator, I often get caught up in the details of how they got from the floors of ancient villas to the walls of our museum. Can you imagine moving an entire floor across the world? The process included lifting, cleaning, and supporting the mosaics with new backings of iron rebar and concrete. They were then crated and padded out with mattresses to help cushion the journey across the ocean to the port of Baltimore. Once they arrived at the museum, they were transformed from floors to art objects displayed on walls for all to admire.

We see our mosaics in all of their glory directly in front of our eyes without having to walk on them or crouch down on the floor for a better look. How different must that experience be to the original context in which the mosaics were seen? The other mosaics that surrounded them are no longer by their sides and many of the less detailed geometric borders and backgrounds were left behind in the ground.

The Sea Thiasos went through many changes after it was no longer in use. It lived quietly just below the ground surviving events as large as earthquakes and as everyday as farming. It’s easy to imagine farmers finding mosaic tiles for years never knowing what was below them. Once archaeologists finally uncovered the mosaic many pieces were missing, including the entire Eros figure on the right and parts of the centaur in the center. Baltimore artists painstakingly recreated these missing figures in 1938 when the mosaics were installed. The missing parts are likely based on what was left of the mosaic and knowledge of similar scenes in antiquity – while never fully knowing if what they were doing was accurate.

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Mosaics being restored in another campaign in the late 1950s.

I find myself wondering if these modern artistic restorations belong on these ancient mosaics. It’s hard to imagine recreating an entire figure on a painting or even a classical vase. As these restorations age and discolor, should they be removed or painted once again? How would you feel if the imagined Eros was suddenly missing?

Sea Thiasos. Syria (present day Turkey). 2nd century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Antioch Subscription Fund, BMA 1937.123

Sea Thiasos. Syria (present day Turkey). 2nd century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Antioch Subscription Fund, BMA 1937.123

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.