The conservator who visited the university
campus to assess the condition of the Southwest Pieta had
previously studied the condition of the Albuquerque cast and
had talked with the artist, so he knew a lot before he arrived
on site. Unlike many outdoor sculptures made of materials
such as granite, cooper, or bronze, he knew about the pioneering
methods Luis Jiménez used to make his fiberglass sculpture
and even the brands of paints and clear coat that he had applied
to its surface. He was also aware that Jiménez intended
for his works to be accessible to people.
The conservator arrived on site with
an assistant, still and video cameras, a laptop computer,
measuring instruments, and containers for samples. While his
assistant made sketches of the sculpture from different angles,
the conservator entered observations into a database on his
He found a chip broken from the back
of the sculpture.
He and his assistant carefully measured
the exposed area
and figured out exactly where
the chip came from before saving it in a plastic container.
They gently removed a flaking section
of the clear coat,
collected it in a container,
and labeled it for later analysis.
The conservator explains that as shade
moves with the sun through the day, the difference in temperature
in shade and in direct sunlight can change 10 to 20 degrees
in less than a minute, which stresses the layers of fiberglass,
paint, and clear coat.
At least five times the conservator
circled the sculpture videotaping it at a distance, at base
level, then higher and higher, till he had footage of every
square inch of its surface.
Finally he shot up-close photographs
of problem areas,
such as oil collecting on the
a missing screw,
The conservator confirmed that
the clear coat had protected the paint beneath.