Spotlight on Past Awardees: Whitten & Proctor Fine Art Conservation
"I was truly delighted when the FAIC review committee scores indicated that Whitten and Proctor Fine Art Conservation would be in the final group of host institutions selected for the Samuel H. Kress Conservation Fellowships in 2012-2013. Jill Whitten and Rob Proctor have a rich background in teaching, mentoring, research, and publication, and I knew that they could offer a unique and challenging environment for a Kress Fellow."
FAIC Institutional Advancement Director
Jill Whitten: Owner, Paintings Conservator
Robert Proctor: Owner, Paintings Conservator
Gabriel Dunn: Kress Paintings Conservation Fellow
Why do you feel this Fellowship has been valuable to your practice?
Jill and Rob: Having a Kress Fellow this past year has enlivened our studio with wonderful activity and enabled us to work on some larger projects. Most importantly, it has freed up Rob to do research. He and Gabriel have been working on the BEVA research project, a collaboration with Chris McGlinchey at MOMA and René de la Rie and Rebecca Ploger of the National Gallery.
What’s the most challenging or interesting project you’ve worked on with Gabriel during his Fellowship?
Gabriel: The most challenging and interesting project during my fellowship had been the project I am currently working on. It is an early 19th century American portrait that has almost every conservation issue: heavy surface grime, thick natural resin varnish, entirely covered by overpaint, canvas undulations, and tears. Treatment for this painting alone encompasses surface cleaning, varnish and overpaint removal, humidification, tear repair, edge-lining, overall consolidation, full lining, filling, revarnishing, and retouching. The project has been challenging, complicated, and rewarding throughout. It is one of those prime examples in conservation of resurrecting a painting to a greatly improved state than what it has been the last 50+ years, and that in itself is gratifying.
What do you feel a Fellowship in a private practice environment can offer that one with a museum might not?
Gabriel: Firstly, private practice offers a young conservator exposure to a wider variety of conservation issues that may not be available in museum institutions. This allows you to develop a larger gamut of tools, techniques, and tips for treating a broad range of artwork. Secondly, you learn how to multitask on a variety of projects at a very efficient level and quickly learn how long each step should and will take. This has been very valuable to me each week as I complete projects and assigned new projects.
How did you balance your roles as mentors and small business owners?
Jill and Rob: Luckily, teaching comes naturally to us. We have worked with wonderful conservators in the best institutions and we feel that we have a great deal to share. We enjoy the teaching aspects. Being so engaged in the studio is also good for our business and for completing projects.
What advice would you offer to other conservators in private practice contemplating hosting a full time fellow?
Jill and Rob: When you have a fellow you need to be working in the studio to make sure you can answer questions and teach and supervise. We learn a great deal from having young conservators fresh out of school with knowledge of the latest technological advances. It is also wonderful to have someone on hand that can update your Facebook Page! This has been an invaluable opportunity for us to get to train and know Gabriel. We have created a position so that she can stay on here as an Assistant Conservator.
Why do you choose to support the Foundation with a gift each year?
Jill: I was raised with a strong sense of social and political efficacy. My parents were active in politics and Rob and I are active in our community with park creation and tree planting. The Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC) provides resources for research and student fellowships, which in turn support our entire profession. Supporting FAIC is just part of being good conservation citizens.
To see a list of past FAIC/Samuel H. Kress Fellowship award winners, please click here.