To Conserve and Protect

Written by Faith Miller Category: Arts Issue: June 2016
Group Free


PHM0616PF TSC 02This year, the Zen Bear sculpture at the Heard Museum in Phoenix got a bit of tender loving care thanks to the Bank of America 2015 Art Conservation Project Grant. The 31-year-old sculpture, by Apache artist Bob Haozous, is made of weathered steel – a material designed to create a rust-like appearance. Conservator Ron Harvey of Tuckerbrook Conservation explained the process of getting the sculpture spruced up.


A frame was erected around the sculpture, which was lifted off its cement base using manual chain hoists connected to an adjustable trolley. This allowed visual access to the underside, where moisture tends to accumulate and deteriorate weathered steel.

The conservator used spatulas and a plastic sheet to remove a small section of deteriorated steel from the concrete base.

A propane torch burned off moisture from the underside of the sculpture.

Oxidation and deteriorating steel were removed from the underside with putty knives and nylon pads.

The underside was warmed with a propane torch and a wax mixture was applied to provide a renewable moisture barrier.

 Risers kept the sculpture elevated above its concrete base.

Heard Museum maintenance staff painted the concrete base, and the sculpture was lowered into place.