In April, 2009, we were commissioned by Portland artist Mary Hart to come up with an appropriate frame presentation for her upcoming show at Aucocisco Gallery for their inaugural exhibit at their new location on Exchange Street in Portland.
We have done some work for Ms Hart in the past, however it was only raw frames which she then painted herself. Finding the right framing solution is a perpetural battle for some artists. Each body of work may not look good in a previously used presentation. Artists experiment with new ideas, new materials, new ways of presenting work, often with success, sometimes with failure.
This project was a challenge as it was not only our first time framing an entire body of her work, but we also had to produce 14 frames with all finishes matching.
The oil paintings were anywhere from 1” x 1” to 2”x 2 1/2” and all but one were diptychs. We decided to float them with a real tight 1/8” float with a specific 1/2” in between. We chose to frame them all to one specific size so that even though each diptych was different, with different sizes of openings, the overall look once installed was uniform. (Mary told me later that a viewer thought they looked like pages from an Illuminated Manuscript—I was thrilled someone made that connection)
We decided to finish them in a lightly antiqued aluminum leaf. At first we thought of painting them a white color to match a highlight in one of her images, then we decided on a silver finish after looking at the work a second time and after the director Andres Verzosa suggested a metallic finish.
We first milled the outer frames, then chopped, joined, gessoed, and sanded them. That was the easy part. We then cut all the panels to size. Now came the hard part. I had to measure, set up, and cut out each opening. (I cut extra panels knowing full well I would make some mistakes—even with the measuring twice and cutting once theory) Once the openings were cut and the hole sizes confirmed, I decided that the opening shadows would look better if I shaped the back of the panel to be a reverse bevel so that the opening would be only razor-thin to the viewer. This was a good decision. Once assembled they looked slick!
I double gilded each panel and frame then toned them all to match. I had to re-do the toning on 3 of them—one little drip can screw the whole thing up!!
We carefully screwed the paintings to the back support panels. We first lightly glued the paintings in place because if we screwed them in without doing this the paintings would surely move—and there was very little tolerance for even the slightest discrepancy. (This screwing also continues my mantra which I started chanting when my sister was studying architecture at Penn State —she had a Professor Wolf who gave them a project with the background rule that “Glue is not a Joint.” To this day anything I do revolves around that theme. You need to secure things into place—glue alone will not suffice!)
The artist and director were so pleased with the outcome, they installed the exhibit early to give more people to see them prior to the opening. This was not only a challenging project, it was also an exciting one. I love having to figure things out and it was great to have the opportunity to frame some amazing work!
Ken Greenleaf wrote a fabulous article for the Portland Phoenix about Mary Hart’s work