<< Front page News May 14, 2004

Mudd art spat upon

Getting “Falling man” on his feet: Sarah Dolecki cleaned 16 spots of spit from the Mudd painting.

Two of the art pieces decorating Mudd library’s main stairway were vandalized and needed reconstruction. The “Falling Man” and the huge Styrofoam installation one level higher were removed while they were cleaned of spit. The “Falling Man” has returned to his spot, though he is now in a more relaxed horizontal position.

Senior art history major Sarah Dolecki, who plans to attend graduate school for art conservation, helped clean the pieces.

“One or more people spat upon the painting,” Dolecki said. “I think it has been going on for a while, but just got noticeable, as there was something like 16 different spots.”

Dolecki worked together with painting conservator Heather Galloway. Galloway works at the Intermuseum Conservation Association in Cleveland where Dolecki interned over Winter Term.

Galloway said she thought Mudd administrators just expected her to spray Windex on the paintings and rub it off, but this would have ruined them.

“The painting was executed in thin washes on an unprimed canvas and there is no surface coating, like a varnish,” Dolecki said. “It is, in conservation terms, friable. The water from the spit helped dust and dirt from the surface work its way into the canvas, causing damage, namely discoloration.”

Under Galloway’s supervision, it took Dolecki about 30 hours to clean the painting.

“Falling Man” came to Mudd over 14 years ago. It was painted by a student, Max Schumen. Students reacted very negatively when it was first hung. However, the current library director Bill Muffet stuck with the painting. When Ray English became the library director in 1990, one of the first questions he answered on his discussion board was, “Can we get rid of the ‘Falling Man?’”

“I posted the matter, asking students what they thought,” English said.

He got many responses, most of them negative. English thinks that students are used to “Falling Man” and take him as a tradition.

“Apparently the student who vandalized it doesn’t think so,” he added.

“I think that when students get depressed or down, they look at the painting and see how silly this is,” English said. “I think this is why the ‘Falling Man’ is there.”

English said they changed the position of the piece to entertain students and provoke positive reactions. He said that the painting would be rotated upright once more after finals.

The other piece that was vandalized was by James Hyde. It belongs to the Allen Art Museum. The museum decided to take it back and put it in storage for a time. In its place is a piece by John Pierson that hung there for many years.


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