Good Bull at The Forsyth Galleries

Good Bull at The Forsyth Galleries

Text by Lynn C. McDaniel, Communications Specialist for the University Art Department

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Photos by Heather Bennett, Collections Manager for the Forsyth Galleries

As mentioned in an earlier blog, conservation and care of the statues and memorials on campus is one of the jobs of the University Art Galleries Department.  Some time back, the Forsyth Galleries made long-term loans of two sculptures to the Large Animal Clinic.  Although the pieces were displayed inside the building, they were not kept in a climate-controlled environment.  Eventually, time and the elements took their toll, and moisture collected under the bases, causing corrosion.  Collections Manager Heather Bennett and Assistant Collections Manager Josh Harden recently brought the statues back to the Forsyth Galleries’ work area to clean them and ensure their preservation.

The sculptures, titled The Bellowing Bull and The Charging Bull, are sand-cast bronze.   Artist Isadore Jules Bonheur, known for his domestic cattle and bull works, first exhibited this matching pair of bulls at the 1865 Paris Salon.  The stunning bronzes feature a deep brown patina with prominent casting details that give the bulls a sense of realism and muscular motion.

The moisture that had collected under the base was causing the bronze to oxidize.  Josh used a toothbrush and ionized water to clean away the active corrosion.  Ionized water is water that has had its acid and alkaline content segregated.  After the first cleaning, the object will be cleaned again with baking soda to completely neutralize the active corrosion.

Once the cleaning is complete, the statues will be returned to the Large Animal Clinic for the continued enjoyment of those who work, study and visit that facility.

For more information about Isadore Jules Bonheur, please click here.  For more information about the Large Animal Hospital, please click here.

Additional Information:

1.)    The Victoria and Albert Museum:  The Artificial Patination of Bronze Sculptures:

2.)    Causes of Corrosion:


12 Days Countdown–12/6/2012.

Text by Lynn McDaniel

Day six of the 12 days countdown addresses one of my favorite topics related to Texas A&M University—the six core values defined by the University in its vision for students, staff, faculty and former students. Working on campus is such a pleasure, because (almost without exception) the students I interact with each day are uplifting, positive role models who are seeking ways and opportunities to better themselves through education.

Here at the Forsyth, at the Stark and in the University Arts Department, we seek to provide students with the opportunity to see and experience fine art, to interact with professors and programming opportunities that will enrich their lives, and to educate our guests about the importance of the paintings, sculptures and memorials on campus. These goals are in conjunction with the core values outlined by the University, which are:
1. Excellence—Set the Bar.
2. Integrity—Character is Destiny.
3. Leadership—Follow Me.
4. Loyalty—Acceptance Forever.
5. Respect—We are the Aggies, the Aggies are we.
6. Selfless Service—How can I be of Service?

We, in the University Arts Department, strive to set the bar for excellence by providing world-class art exhibitions, which inspire students to cherish and respect art. We believe in integrity—our gallery attendants and docents help educate our guests on the proper, respectful way to view and interpret art. We are leaders in art appreciation—we strive to help our guests understand the history and importance of art. We are loyal to the University, to our patrons and to those who love and contribute to the world of art. We respect not only the artists who have different visions for what art is, but also our patrons who may or may not appreciate those visions. We strive to serve our patrons by providing education and opportunities for interaction, interpretation and personal growth.

For more information about the six Core Values at Texas A&M and the various programs and visions associated, please click here. For more information about the University Arts Department, please click here.

Conservation and Care of Texas A&M’s Memorials and Statues

Text by Lynn C. McDaniel, Communications Specialist for the University Art Department

Photos by John Peters, Audio Visual Specialist, Texas A&M College of Architecture

One of the duties tasked to the University Art Department is the care, preservation  and cleaning of the majority of  statues and memorials on campus, at least once per year.  Friday, November 2nd, our department set out to care for the Bonfire Memorial.

The Bonfire Memorial is a tribute to the twelve students who lost their lives, as well as the 27 who were injured, on November 18, 1999 when the bonfire stack they were building collapsed.  The bonfire had been a tradition at Texas A&M since 1909, as a pep rally before each year’s football game against the University of Texas.  The collapse of the bonfire stack, and the ensuing deaths and injuries, were devastating events that marked the end of the bonfire tradition on campus.

Designed by Former Students at the San Antonio-based architectural firm Overland Partners, the Bonfire Memorial was dedicated November 18, 2004.  The memorial is constructed of gray Chinese granite and bronze, and, from conception to completion, took 4 years to build.  One year after its dedication, Overland Partners received an Award of Honor from the San Antonio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Prior to any on-campus art conservation effort, UART sends out requests to students, asking for volunteers from student organizations.  Volunteers sign up for one-hour shifts starting at 9:00 am, and work until the cleaning is finished.  Some students receive extra credit or service credits, while others are simply proud to volunteer to help conserve and protect the memorial out of respect for those who lost their lives.

Students first wash the bronze panels, top to bottom, using a mild soap and water, then rinse and dry them thoroughly.  The original bronze was colored and protected using a technique called patination, which has been used by artists in all cultures for many centuries.  Patinas, the root of patination, form naturally on metal objects as a result of corrosion, but the art of patination has been developed both to give sculptures that “weathered” look and to protect the artwork from corrosion.  Our conservation efforts strive to safeguard the protective patina, thereby further shielding the artwork.  The original artists’ patina usually serves to protect an outdoor sculpture for an average of five to ten years, depending on exposure and climate, with little or no elemental damage.  With good conservation efforts however, damaged can be controlled for many more years.

Unfortunately, after 8 years of exposure to the Texas sun, wind, rain and the spray of the sprinkling system, three of the Bonfire portals, in particular, are showing excessive pitting and corrosion.   Student volunteers carefully applied wax to the bronze, spreading it thinly and making sure to get it into every crack and crevice, paying particular attention to pitted or damaged areas.  Once the wax dried, students used elbow-grease to buff the bronze to a smooth, protective shine.  The portals showing the worst damage received additional coats of wax for more protection.  The Chinese granite requires little more than to be swept and given a simple wash with water.

The University Art Department works diligently to ensure that the statues and memorials on the Texas A&M campus will be available for our students’ enjoyment, as well as to commemorate those to whom they  were dedicated, for many years to come.  No matter where you live, you probably have statues and memorials in your town, on your campus or in some public place nearby.  We invite you to stop, look and really appreciate those works of art, and to remember those who work to maintain their integrity.  We also invite you to come and visit the Bonfire Memorial at Texas A&M University, and to remember the 12 who lost their lives that terrible night:  Miranda Adams, Christopher Breen, Michael Ebanks, Jeremy Frampton, Jamie Hand, Christopher Lee Heard, Lucas Kimmel, Bryan McClain, Chad Powell, Jerry Self, Nathan Scott West and Tim Kerlee, Jr.

For more information, click the links below:

1.)    Bonfire Memorial Website:

2.)    Wall Street Journal Article:

3.)    Aggie Bonfire Memorial Design Winner:

4.)    The Victoria and Albert Museum:  The Artificial Patination of Bronze Sculptures:

5.)    Causes of Corrosion:

Saturday Links – 20th October 2012

I hope everyone is having an amazing and enjoyable weekend!  Check out these links to see some fun and interesting art found around the internet this week.  It’s 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) and sunny here in College Station, Texas…perfect weather for American football!  Stay happy and healthy, my friends.

Hammering coins into the bark of trees to wish for good health and recovery from illness is a tradition in Gwynedd, Wales, that dates back to the 1700s.  Click here!

This video by Phillip Scott Johnson details 500 years of female portraits in Western Art.  It’s been floating around the internet since 2007, but is always enjoyable.  Click here!

With all of the news about stolen or vandalized art, take a look at this stories from  It’s wonderful to see that art can be recovered even years later!  Click here!

These Angry Birds piggy macarons are amazing and adorable!  Click here!

Red makes incredible portraits with unique materials.  Click here! has free lessons if you want to practice your drawing skills, but don’t have time to attend classes.  Click here!

Surrealist photography before Photoshop.  Click here!

Check out this amazing gallery of deep sea creatures.  Click here!

Studio Roosegaarde has created an amazing lotus dome made of hundreds of mylar flowers that react to the viewers body heat.  The result is an incredible piece of interactive art.  Click here!

This film by Renaud Hallee uses fire as a musical tool.  Click here!

Damien Hirst created this incredible sculpture, The Anatomy of an Angel, in 2008.  Click here!

What is art?

For the entirety of written human history we have been debating what does or does not constitute art.  One of the most beautiful and intriguing aspects of art is that its definition is vague and allows us, as both individuals and groups, to modify what we classify as art according to our experiences and preferences.  Art is a truly personal experience and, while there are general trends as to what cultures accept as art, the amount of variation seen in the definition within groups (as well as between them) is staggering.

3D illusion street art, image courtesy

Art, as defined by, is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”  The word originally comes from the Latin artem meaning “work of art; practical skill; a business, craft.”  It appears in Middle English during the early 1300s (appropriated from Old French) with more of an emphasis toward scholarship and learning, such as sciences and liberal arts.  In English, “art” did not take on the meaning associated with creating painting or sculpture until the 1610s.  The phrase “fine arts” did not appear until 1767, when it was first recorded as “those which appeal to the mind and the imagination.”

Lego brick art, courtesy of

When discussing art in the Western tradition, it is typically divided into fine arts and applied arts.  Fine arts encompasses objects and performances geared toward aesthetics or concept, and may not serve any practical function.  Traditionally, the “greater” fine arts included painting, sculpture, architecture, music, & poetry, while drama and dancing were relegated to minor fine arts.  However, with time the scope of the fine arts has broadened to include most visual and performing arts.  Collage, decollage, calligraphy, film, photography, installation, assemblage, print making, conceptual art, mosaics, and fiber arts are all relative newcomers to the fine arts.

Ballet Rehearsal by Edgar Degas, 1873, oil on canvas

The applied arts encompass the application of aesthetics to objects that have function and everyday use.  Fields included under this umbrella include furniture design, graphic design, ceramics, jewelry, glass, quilting, textile art, industrial design, film posters, advertisement posters, fashion design, interior design, architecture, and photography.  The phrase “decorative arts” is sometimes used interchangeably with applied arts, but typically does not include graphic and industrial design.

Organic chair by Tronahue J Veluz

There is also large amount of overlap between fine and applied arts.  Photography, architecture, and fiber arts (textiles and yarn art) have been appropriated into both categories depending on the specific circumstances surrounding each object.  Art is also coming to include areas that have traditionally been considered “crafts,” such as quilting and yarn arts.  This could be due to a lessening of emphasis on extensive education in the artist’s chosen field.  Art is no longer relegated to those with the time and resources for lengthy educations and the number of self-taught artists is on the rise.  It will be fascinating to see where art takes us next and how our definition of art changes in the future!

Alex Wong during his tenure with the Miami City Ballet. Image courtesy

Art Videos

Enjoy these visual representations of other forms of visual art on your Saturday!

Agnes Cecile paints for the entrance of her solo exhibition.

The art of paper marbling.

Blindfold art

Renowned art quilt artist Laurie Swim

An excerpt from the BBC’s How Art Made the World covering Greek sculpture.

Art Spotted: The Fremont Troll, Seattle, WA, USA

In the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, there lives a strange and monstrous creature.  It makes its home under the north end of the George Washington Memorial Bridge (also known as the Aurora Bridge) and stands 18 feet tall (5.5 meters).  Weighing in at over 13,000 pounds (6,000 kg), it waits for unsuspecting cars to pass a little too close…

The Fremont Troll by Badanes, Martin, Walter, & Whitehead (1990)

The Fremont Troll, completed in 1990, is a mixed media statue constructed out of steel rebar, concrete, and wire.  The concept for the statue, also known as The Troll and Troll Under the Bridge, was submitted as an entry in a contest created by the Fremont Arts Council to clean up and rehabilitate the area under the Aurora Bridge.  In 2005 the Fremont Neighborhood renamed the street passing by from Aurora Avenue North to Troll Avenue.

The Fremont Troll (1990) clutching a Volkswagen Beetle

It is interesting to note that the Troll is grasping a real Volkswagen Beetle.  Reportedly, the Bug had California license plates until they were stolen in 1998.  Every year on October 31st the neighborhood hosts a “Troll-a-ween” art party where people gather at the Troll and then moving on to visit other public art sites and events in the area.  If you’re ever going over the George Washington Memorial Bridge, be careful not to wake the troll unless you have three very clever billy goats to distract him!