School of Art + Art History alumna Ana Alba recently opened a private art conservation practice, Alba Art Conservation LLC, in Pittsburgh. Although Alba specializes in the preservation, conservation and analysis of modern and contemporary art, her practice treats paintings ranging in date from the 19th century to today to fit the needs of local clientele.
Since graduating from the University of Florida in 2005 with her bachelors in art history, Alba has obtained her Masters of Art and Certificate of Advanced Study in Art Conservation from the Buffalo State College Art Conservation Department. She has also received training and experience from fellowships and internships at the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.
Alba’s interest in conserving modern artwork dates back to her time at UF. Alba reminisces that her favorite courses at UF were ones that involved either modern art or modern art critique. During this time, she also loved to paint and draw.
“Art conservation allowed for a combination of the things I was most interested in and enabled me to pursue a more hands-on profession using my art history degree,” says Alba.
She remembers feeling encouraged by her professors, namely Dr. Robin Poynor and Dr. Melissa Hyde, to enter the field of art conservation.
Although conserving modern artwork is her passion, Alba recognizes that there are particular difficulties within the field.
“Conserving modern artwork is especially challenging,” says Alba, “because the surfaces tend to be pristine and very vulnerable to damages.” Modern artists have moved toward utilizing unconventional materials which may lead to future condition issues. Alba states that in pieces where signs of deterioration were intended by the artist, art conservators are left to determine what damage is intended and what is not.
“Often times, we are left preserving the intent of the artist and not the physical object,” says Alba.
Art conservation requires a careful balance between art and science. The requirements of the field include, in addition to studio art courses, inorganic and organic chemistry. This background in science allows art conservators to make important decisions regarding the materials they use to treat artwork. Alba states that treatments must be able to remain stable over time and be safely removed by other art conservators.
“There is a general misconception that art conservators use the same materials that artists use. Much of our inpainting and varnishing is done in modern synthetics versus the more traditionally used natural resins, which tend to yellow over time,” says Alba.
She encourages students who wish to pursue a career in the field of art conservation to remain optimistic and determined.
“Try not to be discouraged by the prerequisites of the programs. Find local art conservators and talk to them about the field and the possibility of pre-program experience,” says Alba who got her start in the profession by completing pre-program work with archaeologists on a Seminole dig in Micanopy. Alba also encourages art conservators to connect via art conservation organizations such as the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network and even through groups on Facebook.
To find out more about Ana Alba Conservation, visit http://www.albaconservation.com where you can also discover some fascinating conservation techniques such as how to rid your paintings of mold growth, resaturate a varnish and make glue from fish bladders.