Saturday at the Sackler: Depth of color, breadth of art

by Jihyun Ro

On Saturday, September 22nd, I headed over to the Sackler Museum to attend part of Material and Immaterial Aspects of Color: A Dialogue among Artists, Conservators, Curators and Scientists, a day-long symposium on art conservation, colors and pigments, and archeological materials by artists, conservators and curators from both Harvard and around the country. The wide-ranging subjects, which drew a large crowd of Cambridge locals and art enthusiasts, included topics as diverse as the science and chemistry behind art conservation and the use of florescent light in contemporary art. I went during the afternoon to hear artist Kate Shepherd speak about her work as a contemporary artist in New York City. Her lecture -- Marine Quality Brilliant Enamel, unequalled in its ability to provide maximum protection and depth of color, social shyness, color references, and my son’s dirty hands -- dealt with the relativity of color values and types of paint in her paintings.

Shepherd not only provided insight into the specificity of her medium (enamel paint) and her artistic process, but also gave the audience a tour of her past and current work. One of her paintings, she told us, was bought by actor Heath Ledger during his filming of The Dark Knight in 2008, months before his death. Her reaction to his death brought about a sister painting, done in black, that she paired with the original red canvas.

Her lecture, part of the afternoon set that included talks by Harry Cooper, Curator and Head of the Department of Modern & Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Art in D.C., Francesca Esmay, Conservator of the Panza Collection at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and Mike Glier, an artist and professor at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., created a glimpse into parts of the art world that the viewer of a painting, installation or any other work of art might not be familiar with.

Overall, I found the talk enjoyable and informative. Learning the tricks behind an artist's trade is an opportunity that is difficult to find, and through the event it was possible to not only understand the logistics behind Shepherd's creative process, but also understand many of the motivations behind the pieces. I now have a greater appreciation for the planning and subtlety behind every artistic decision. Shepherd's lecture and the symposium as a whole was an opportunity for both the Harvard community and the general public to engage with leading figures in the art world in a forum dedicated for the advancement of the visual arts.

[Caption: A painting by Kate Shepherd for the late Heath Ledger ]