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STANFORD -- Gay Liberation, the bronze sculpture group by artist George Segal, will be reinstalled on the Stanford campus Friday, Sept. 23, after a two-week period of conservation. The sculpture was damaged in an attack by seven Stanford students in the early morning hours of May 16.
The sculpture, comprised of four painted figures and two benches, was removed from its site at Stanford on Sept. 6 and taken to San Rafael for extensive restoration. Beginning at 9 a.m. on Sept. 23, the four figures will be secured to the benches and to the cement pad that serves as the sculpture's base. It is anticipated that the reinstallation will be completed that morning.
The restoration, undertaken by objects conservator Tracy Power and two other professionals, involved intensive labor and special technologies. The damaged painted surfaces of the bronze figures and the benches were stripped by carefully abrading them with glass beads that were hard enough to remove the surface paint, but not hard enough to harm the metal.
Once the paint was stripped, infills were added and repairs made to areas where the bronze had been disfigured by the park bench rammed into the male figures. After the surfaces were thoroughly cleaned, the bronze was etched with a special acid to prepare it for the adhesion of the paint layers.
Spraying the bronze with several different colored coats of paint to achieve the proper bonding of the pigments and patination required 24-hour work over a period of several days, said Hilarie Faberman, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Stanford Museum. A final clear coat was added to the sculpture to seal the surfaces and minimize the potential changes in color from ultraviolet light.
Power consulted experts, including Segal, paint chemists and workers at the Johnson Atelier in New Jersey, the foundry that orginally cast Gay Liberation. With their input and her expertise in conservation, Power determined the materials and procedures necessary to create a patina that simulated plaster, the effect that Segal desired, and to form a durable surface.
Many of the intricacies of the bronze are visible in the restored sculpture, Faberman said.
The students involved in vandalizing the sculpture have been disciplined by the university, said Sally Cole, judicial affairs officer. Cole said she would provide no further information.
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