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De Wain Valentine: surface matters

Video transcript
- [Helen] The attempt is to finish them so that there are no scratches or imperfections on the surface, so that the surface itself begins to disappear in the eye of the viewer. And you don't notice it, but you look directly into the piece. - When I did shows with Dwayne, it was like I had to almost have a cattle prodder in the exhibition with a guard to stop people from going and touching the pieces. - [Eric] They're very heavy material, yet when you look at them, there's a lightness about them with the light and the texture. - [Robin] A lot of these works are fragile, which easily scratch. And also, they do tend to age when exposed to light. - [Tom] There's definitely a conflict between the immaculateness of the finish, the surface, and the natural phenomena of the piece aging. - It's very important to have them re-polished. - The polishing thing happens, and then the piece is like new again. - You're not just dealing with the scratch. You have to irreversibly alter a lot of surface area in order for that scratch to disappear. - All things and beings change over time, and that history or experience, if you will, is visibly lost when you remove the surface. - There was a surface quality that was achieved that may be quite different than what's achievable now using more modern materials. - What's important to me as far as from a conservation perspective, is the artist's originally intended experience. If there's been damage or something that distracts from being able to recreate that image, then the piece is lost. And I think it's okay to bring it back to that level. - [Tom] We wanted to use this exhibition to kind of pose the question, would it be right to actually sort of improve the finish, even if the technology had become available, and even if the artist would have wanted that? Would it be right to finally make this piece as it was intended? Or is it actually far more authentic to keep to the surface that was created in the 70s?