Yukon Seasons to be Reinstalled at Canada Games Centre

city of whitehorse-yukongovernment banner

Yukon Seasons Re-installed at Canada Games Centre
WHITEHORSE – The last piece of community artwork is set to be installed as part of the art restoration project that took place as a result of the June 24th fire at the Canada Games Centre.

Today at 1 p.m. staff from the Government of Yukon’s Culture Services Branch will install ‘Yukon Seasons’ (the Moose antler carving). The beautifully carved antlers have survived both theft and fire and will be placed back in its display case on the second floor concourse of the Canada Games Centre.

Artist Shane Wilson donated Yukon Seasons to the Friends of the Gallery for the Yukon Permanent Art Collection in 2006. The collection belongs to the people of Yukon, with the Government of Yukon acting as custodian of the collection. After the fire, Government of Yukon’s museums conservator Valery Monahan treated the piece for minor soot removal and reworked a previous repair.

“We’re very pleased that Yukon Seasons is back home at the Canada Games Centre,” Tourism and Culture Minister Mike Nixon said. “As a treasured piece of the Yukon Permanent Art Collection, Yukon Seasons belongs on public display where residents and visitors can see and enjoy the sculpture as a unique and irreplaceable rendition of Yukon wildlife.”


city of whitehorse banner

COMMUNITY ARTWORK RESTORED AT THE CGC
WHITEHORSE – Following months of thorough restoration all artwork damaged as a result of the June 24th fire at the Canada Games Centre (CGC), has been restored and currently being installed, said Mayor Bev Buckway.

“It is with great pleasure that I announce that the over 20 major pieces of community artwork have been returned from being restored and are currently being installed,” announced Buckway. “The collection valued at over $200,000; includes sculptures, stained glass, fabric- based art, paintings, photos, carvings and murals by a variety of local Yukon artists,” added Buckway.

“This is one of the last stages in fully restoring the CGC after the fire and is anticipated to take the rest of the week to complete,” said Indoor Facilities Manager Art Manhire. “This is a valuable part of the cultural and social makeup of the centre and is something that the community is proud of,” added Manhire.

“I am pleased to say that we are almost at the end of a long and emotional restoration process of the Canada Games Centre that began immediately after the June 24
th fire,” said Manhire. “Our hope is that in the next week we will be in a position to announce the complete return to full service at the CGC with the reopening o the ATCO Ice,” added Manhire.

Bookmark and Share

“Stolen, Returned, Conserved, Revealed: The Adventures of Yukon Seasons” - A Talk Delivered by Valery Monahan for the 35th Annual Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property Conference, Vancouver, B.C.


Valery Monahan, Conservator, Museums Unit, Tourism and Culture, YTG, restores the moose antler sculpture, 'Yukon Seasons'

Valery's talk gave details of the conservation treatment she used to restore Yukon Seasons, with a bit of context about the sculpture and its theft plus additional details of the modification of the mount and re-installation. The talk was essentially a shortened version of the notes provided below, using the same images. Talks at this conference are typically 20 minutes long.
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

CBC Radio One Whitehorse: Al Foster interiews Valery Monahan on Yukon Seasons Restoration




(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)
Text:
Al Foster, CBC Reporter
Dirty, moldy and yellow.

Yukon Conservator, Valery Monahan is restoring a large antler sculpture. It was stolen from the Canada Games Centre more than a year ago. Last April it was anonymously returned to the RCMP.

No for the last four months it has undergone a bit of a facelift.

Here to give us an update is Valery Monahan. How's our sculpture looking now?
Read More...

"Yukon Seasons" Prerestoration 1 - by Valery Monahan, Conservator, Museums Unit Cultural Services Branch, Tourism and Culture, Government of Yukon Whitehorse, Yukon

I'm the conservator Laurel Parry asked to look at the Yukon Seasons sculpture after the RCMP returned it to the Arts Branch. I am in the process of doing up a condition report and some recommendations. I hope you don't mind my asking you some questions about it.

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Prerestoration (moose antler skull sculpture)

First of all, I want to say that it is just gorgeous! And, as you have undoubtedly heard, it is in (I think) remarkably good shape considering its ordeal. One section of tine was broken off, during the robbery, apparently and the very tips of the moose's jaw (where it originally rested on the base) look a bit abraded/cracked. That is the extent of structural damage. I think it's quite minimal for an object that combines fragility with weight and which would be tricky to transport, even when not being stolen.

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Prerestoration (moose antler skull sculpture)

The piece seems quite a bit darker than it was originally, however. Most of my questions relate to this. It has been suggested that it was exposed to cigarette or wood smoke over the winter, but I actually don't believe this was the case. There is no smell of either substance associated with the piece and it is not particularly dusty ... wood stoves and people (smokers or not) produce lots of fine dust. It did come back with some debris on it. That debris included old spruce needles and a bit of mouse scat. I actually wonder if it was stored outside, and/or in an outbuilding and if the darkening relates to some combination of light exposure, microbial growth and exposure to high humidity or even standing water.

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Prerestoration (moose antler skull sculpture)

Do you normally process the skulls and antlers yourself prior to carving, or does some else normally do them for you? I'm curious to know about how the skull and rack were initially cleaned and if they were coated at any point during your work (and with what, if anything). I'm trying to figure out if some of the darkening is the response of a coating, or remnant grease/oils to months spent in a new and very different environment. Also, was the piece originally glued to its mount? If so, what adhesive do you normally use?

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Prerestoration (moose antler skull sculpture)

Here are some images of the sculpture. Please keep in mind that these were taken in a badly lit room. I took the first ones when the sculpture was still "bagged" from the RCMP. The one showing the mold is one of the worst spots ... which is why I took the shot. Very little of the sculpture's surface is speckled in this way.

Valery
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

CBC-TV Northbeat: 'Yukon Seasons' Artist Reunited with Sculpture




(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)
Text:
CBC Northbeat Announcer
It's one of the most talked about pieces of Yukon Art, at least in terms of what's happened to it in its short history. Now, in the latest chapter, the unique piece of art has been reunited with its creator after being stolen and damaged.

Read More...

CBC Radio One Whitehorse: Morning Show with Tara McCarthy Interview with Valery Monahan on the restoration of Yukon Seasons




(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)
Text:
Tara McCarthy, Host, Morning Show, CBC Radio Whitehorse
The damage to a sculpture crafted from moose skull and antler could have been far worse. Artist, Shane Wilson, donated the piece, valued at $50,000, to the Canada Games Centre. Thieves lifted it from the Centre last September.

In April of this year, though, it was recovered although no charges have been laid.

Yesterday Wilson saw it for the first time and the damage done to his sculpture. He was relieved to learn his creation is repairable.

The person doing the delicate restoration is Valery Monahan. She's a conservator with the Yukon Government and she's with us in the studio this morning.


Read More...

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 1 - by Valery Monahan, Conservator, Museums Unit Cultural Services Branch, Tourism and Culture, Government of Yukon Whitehorse, Yukon

I have spent some time dry-brushing mould and dirt from Yukon Seasons and it is going very well. While some of the worst (blackest) spots are still visible, they have been reduced and many of the smaller spots are just gone. Spots in between those two extremes have improved, becoming light grey or yellowish.

So, even after this first effort, the sculpture has lightened overall and looks better. Some of the mould grew on spots that retained a high polish. Since it was so well dried, it just lifted with the brush.

Additionally, some of the sculpture's dark appearance was not caused by mould, but by fine debris caught in carving recesses. That material was loose and I was able to get it out easily with a fine brush and vacuum.

This is pretty much a best case scenario. I had been concerned that I would brush away the loose mould to reveal black stains underneath, but so far so good! I'll keep you posted as I finish the first cleaning round.

Valery
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 2 - by Valery Monahan, Conservator

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Restoration, Phase 2 (moose antler skull sculpture)

Above are two details showing what I was able to do with one of the most discoloured areas: the top of the proper left antler. Note that brushing did nothing to the black spot on the bear top left in the image. That black spot is not mould, but the spots at the very top of the antler were mold.

I'm working on the bear spot now and it already looks better than it does here. [Note: the scale at left is graded in centemeters]

Valery
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 3 - by Valery Monahan, Conservator

I am well into stain removal and my opinion about the dirt keeps changing! I now think the black stain on the bear might be spruce resin.

There is more of that stuff in the holes in the antler just adjacent and a lot of it is quite transparent and yellowish to reddish. So, most of it has the appearance and consistency of resin and the really black bits of it might just be areas where it was exposed to loose dirt, coating its surface and making it look very dark.

I have been able to remove quite a bit from the bear and surrounding area with a fine needle.

Unfortunately, resins like this are quite difficult to dissolve without using oils of various kinds ... and those are difficult to control and can make stains, too. So, I have not been able to safely remove all of the original staining from this area, but I think it looks much better, overall. (See images below.)

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Restoration, Phase 3 (moose antler skull sculpture)

Lots of other small dark stains have responded well to that most traditional of conservator cleaning agents: saliva. Some people have claimed that it is enzymes in saliva that make it work so well, but I've seen recent research that suggest its combination of polarity and relatively high surface tension are also important as they greatly improve its wetting power, pulling dirt and stain materials out of surfaces more efficiently. Rest assured that I use tiny, tiny, almost dry saliva swabs and then clear the saliva with tiny, tiny, almost dry water swabs. Spit has been used to clean many famous paintings and other art works, but this is not often discussed outside of conservation circles. "Mild enzymatic solvent" is the popular euphemism ...

I have two questions and they are both about the snot tape**. Do you use the tape kind, or the gun-dispensed kind? I am also curious about where (all) the snot tape was used. The snot tape residues on the mount and on edges of the antler are currently black ... not surprising since it is still really sticky and both the mount and the sculpture have been much handled and stored in dusty places. However, these very black snot tape residues have led me to wonder whether two similarly very black areas under the base of the skull are not mould, as I originally assumed, but actually more snot tape residues. If these areas were still sticky when the sculpture was stolen, it would make sense that they would now have thick layers of black grime covering them. The underside of the skull does not rest on the mount, however. So, my question is if you recall ever having snot-taped Yukon Seasons to something via the underside of the moose's skull ... maybe to facilitate carving?

**[Note: 'Snot tape' is an industry term for a very sticky, gummy, double-sided tape that can be balled up and used to stick things together temporarily. It is really, really sticky and has found many uses in the movie industry on sets, where things need to be stuck up temporarily on locations, etc. During the filming of a television series in Whitehorse, called 'Northern Town', Yukon Seasons was used in one of the sets (it did not make it to the final cut). The crew introduced me to snot tape as a way of adhering Yukon Seasons to its stand, so as not to be bumped off in the midst of filming. I continued to use it afterward, ensuring a reasonably permament, non-invasive bond, between sculpture and stand. It was probably due to the stickiness of the snot tape that the theives broke the sculpture when they removed it from the stand.]

The black grime under the skull is coming off, it is not visible anyway, but it would be nice to be able to say that it is not mould, if it isn't. The dark spots which brushed off the antler tines really were mould and, until I noticed the residues on the mount, I just assumed that what was under the skull was the same, but with much heavier growth. If it is actually something else, then the sculpture actually didn't have much mould growth at all. And that is a good thing ...

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Restoration, Phase 3 (moose antler skull sculpture)

Here is a detail of the black staining under the skull. Note that it is more uneven looking than the staining on the tines was ... not quite the nice circular shapes you get with microbial growth. If you can remember putting snot tape there at some point, or if you are quite sure you didn't, please let me know.

The reason I am curious about which type of snot tape you use involves understanding its long term properties. Different adhesives respond differently as they age and if relatively heavy things are mounted semi-permanently with adhesives that tend to get brittle over time, it can be a problem. I'm getting an opinion on the long-term durability of the snot tape from my colleagues at the Canadian Conservation Institute and the type of commercial product you use will help them fine-tune their comments. I'll let you know what they say about its safety over the long-term.

Valery
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 3 Response - by Shane Wilson, Sculptor

Thanks for the marvelous work you are doing, Val! :)

As for the snot tape ... I am not sure which variety it was. It seems to me that the film guys working on 'Northern Town' tore some off a role and gave it to me to help attach the sculpture to its stand during filming, and I continued using it since it worked so well. Not sure if that helps.

As far as adding snot tape to the back of the head ... I did not. I used it only on the underside of the beams. Theoretically, if the tape is not still resident on the stand (which you must have access to?) then it had to go somewhere. Perhaps the villains got it on their hands and wiped it off on the skull? Still, a significant portion should have been left behind.

Shane

(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 4 - by Valery Monahan, Conservator

Yes, I have the mount here with me. There are heavy deposits of snot tape residue still on it ... and they are black from the dust stuck to them. Looking at that led me to look where the antlers rested on the mount. There are lighter deposits there, but they are also black. That's when I began wondering if the black stuff on the skull could be the same thing? It is possible that there was transfer at the time of the theft. If the skull was lifted from those two points by someone who had just smeared their hands on the snot tape, it could have created what I see now.

Valerie adds further details and cautionary notes about her work:

The methods I am using on Yukon Seasons are not necessarily appropriate for all stained art.

It is important for people to understand that I do this kind of work professionally and that years of training and experience go into my choices.

Some of the things I am doing (the needle work, for instance) could do damage, if not done with great care and the right equipment.


'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Restoration, Phase 4 (moose antler skull sculpture)
Valery Monahan restores the moose antler sculpture, 'Yukon Seasons'

The mechanical cleaning (picking with the needle) and even some of the swab work is done with the aid of a large, standing binocular microscope similar to ones designed for surgery and dental work. It allows me to magnify and light the area I am working on, greatly increasing my ability to observe and control what I do. It also allows me to test my methods on different stains and residues safely. I can try something on a tiny spot, essentially invisible to the naked eye. If my cleaning method doesn't work, or if it looks like the method might cause problems, I can stop and change my approach before my actions have any real effect on the artwork.

Valery
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 5 - by Valery Monahan, Conservator

I am starting to play with the broken tine to get a handle on how well it will re-fit for the repair ...

Valery
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 6 - by Valery Monahan, Conservator

I have two subjects in this update:  snot tape and a lock-out. Things have been running so smoothly with this treatment! It seems only fair that there be a few challenges before the finish. And here they are ... first:

 
The Snot Tape

I asked the folks at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa about snot tape. I wanted them to comment on its suitability for securing heavy sculptures over the long term. No one has ever asked CCI about snot tape before, but conservators ask them things about art/artifact related materials all the time and they were happy to help. They requested a sample to analyze. Commercial products like snot tape rarely come with a full ingredient list. Analysis helps provide a complete picture of the product, necessary for understanding/predicting its behaviour. I cut a small bit of old snot tape from the Yukon Seasons' mount and sent it to them.

The analysis is done and CCI has sent a report back to me.  The results are as follows:  the adhesive used to secure Yukon Seasons is a styrene-butadiene rubber with pentaerythritol ester of rosin as a tackifier. There was no evidence of acrylic or fibreglass in the sample. This means that while you may be using Scapa 4450 snot tape now, the stuff you got from the film crew for Yukon Seasons must have been a different brand. Scapa 4450 manufacturing information specifically states that it is acrylic and that it contains fibreglass as a strengthening agent.

According to the CCI report, the ingredients in the Yukon Seasons snot tape are consistent with many commercial pressure-sensitive adhesives. Pressure-sensitive adhesives are designed for temporary use. In this formulation, the tackifier will oxidize readily, losing tack and becoming yellow and brittle over time. It is hard to predict how quickly an adhesive will deteriorate, but the CCI folks think this formulation is likely to show significant change in a decade. The component most likely to change is the tackifier. This means that the qualities that make this snot tape so nice for temporary use, its flexibility and extreme stickiness, are exactly the qualities that it will loose as it ages.  Pressure sensitive adhesives are designed in such a way as to increase their tack under pressure. Their traditional use is as thin films used to join relatively light-weight, flat surfaces:  labels to paper, card stock to card stock, a nameplate to a wall, etc. They have little shear strength, so cannot be expected to perform well as structural adhesives. This has particular significance in terms of their being used thickly, to secure heavy objects over extended periods of time. Under that type of application, you would expect the heavy object to sink gradually through the soft adhesive, until it is resting directly on the other surface. At that point, there is little adhesive present between the two surfaces and join failure may follow.

The CCI report only talks about the kind of snot tape they analyzed, so what follows is my extrapolation from the information they have given me. The addition of fibreglass will make snot tape stronger and acrylic is more stable than pentaerythritol ester of rosin. So, Scapa 4450 (and similar snot tape formulations) should be stronger than the tape used on Yukon Seasons and may be more stable over time. However, if you have only been using snot tape since 2003, you may not, yet, be seeing how it behaves as an "aged" adhesive. The more stable tapes may loose flexibility and tackiness too, just at a slower rate. Regardless of the formulation, snot tape was not designed for use as a structural adhesive, so lack of shear strength and adhesive migration are likely to be a problem even with the better quality tapes. For this reason, I have recommended we not use snot tape to secure "Yukon Seasons" in the future.

The stability of snot tape is not the only one reason we are currently re-working the way in which Yukon Seasons is secured to its mount. Another factor to consider is the damage to the tip of the moose skull upper palate. Remember that area was abraded, possibly chewed before it was returned? It was the centre resting point for the skull, when the piece sat on its mount. With the tip gone, the skull and mount don't connect correctly. Now the sculpture has just two points of contact: the antler beams. It is free to pivot on them and it does. This is just not safe for the sculpture. The obvious solution is to build up the mount (discreetly) and create a new safe resting point for the skull. Since we have to modify the mount base, we will use the opportunity to modify the uprights so that the antlers sit more securely. Again any modifications we do will be discreet.

The Lock-Out

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Restoration, Phase 6 (moose antler skull sculpture)

I've been spending more time trying to re-fit the broken tine. Unfortunately, it's locked out. The broken surfaces of both the detached tine and the main antler are complex, with lots of sharp angles and splintered areas. This will be really helpful when I glue the piece in place, but it is a problem now. All those ridges and angles are keeping the broken surfaces from aligning. It's not that I can't get a perfect fit between the two. I never really expect that with broken organic materials, as they can change shape after a break. The problem here is that the break edges are actually preventing me from placing the detached piece back into the gap left by the break. I can't get the two pieces close enough for a good adhesive bond. There was a great deal of force used to break the tine away from the main antler, but if I try to force the piece back in, I will undoubtedly cause new breaks, including some to carved areas. If I leave the detached piece the way it is, the two parts will only be touching on small points and any repair will be weak and unsightly.

I plan to borrow a method from conservation of wooden artifacts/cabinetry repair. Wooden artifacts suffer from this problem all the time. A conservation solution is to minutely trim the splintered, interior surfaces of the break to allow the detached piece to be re-inserted and aligned. The amount I remove will be tiny and all of it will be taken from those broken, interior surfaces. There will be no alteration of the carved surfaces at all. I plan to use some small plaster rasps, possibly a utility blade for this work. Everything will be done by hand, with extreme care and I will check the re-fit regularly. The goal is to remove just enough to allow the detached piece to slip into place. Then, I will proceed with the repair. Again, I'm not looking for anything like a "perfect" fit here. I'm just ensuring that the broken edges come together for a secure bond.

I've included two images of the lock-out. Note the foam backdrop visible through the gaps between the broken tine and main antler section!

Valery
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 6 Response - by Shane Wilson, Sculptor

Thanks Valery! The update is marvelous. Please make any alterations you think fit to the stand and the interface between tine and antler. Good work on the snot tape analysis.

All the best on the home stretch!

Thanks again, Shane
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration - Phase 7 - by Valery Monahan, Conservator

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Restoration, Phase 7 (moose antler skull sculpture)

The work is essentially done. I have finished the repair and it went as I had hoped. The fit isn't perfect, but by making small reductions to the uneven, inner surfaces of the break, I have reduced gaps and increased the contact between the two pieces. I re-attached the tine with Acryloid® B-72 adhesive (ethyl methacrylate copolymer resin in acetone) and have bridged remaining gaps with more of the same adhesive. The break will be visible if anyone looks closely, but its location will make it unobtrusive when the work is on display. Acryloid® B-72 has been researched extensively as both an adhesive and as a consolidant. It dries clear, is tough, but flexible, will not yellow and is reversible in acetone. It is also very chemically stable, so it should remain clear, strong and reversible in acetone for the foreseeable life of Yukon Seasons.

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Restoration, Phase 7 (moose antler skull sculpture)

Garnet Muething has finished re-working the mount. She is local heritage contractor with considerable mount-making experience and carpentry training. She deepened the grooves in the wooden uprights supporting the antler beams and then used an epoxy putty to build in so that the grooves match the shape of the antlers. We lined the contact points with black framer's felt. It's a fabric tape with polyester felt on one side and an acrylic, pressure-sensitive adhesive on the other. It is used to line the rebates (inner edges) of frames to keep paintings from sticking to them. You can buy it in a range of widths and colours and it's a great way to add discreet padding to mounts and supports. Garnet also replaced the block under the upper jaw tip with one made from Ethafoam® covered with black cloth. It fits the jaw's new shape and is very discreet. The sculpture sits very solidly on the mount now. The changes are quite subtle and I'm really happy with the way it looks.

Valery
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share

"Yukon Seasons" Restoration Finished - by Valery Monahan, Conservator

'Yukon Seasons, 2003' by Shane Wilson - Restoration Completed (moose antler skull sculpture)
Valery Monahan at the unveiling of the restored, carved moose antler skull sculpture, 'Yukon Seasons', by Shane Wilson
(moose antler skull carving, moose antler skull sculpture)

Bookmark and Share