Monday, September 28, 2009

Opening Day

Well, it's finally here....opening day. After months of planning and work the gallery doors opened at 9:30AM and visitors began exploring the exhibit. We actually just wrapped up some minor tweaking of things on Sunday afternoon. I drove home for the most part feeling good about the finished product. There were still a few things that I wanted to improve on, but the library staff was satisfied and I decided that we were good to go. Sunday night back in Houston, I poured myself a glass of 2006 Corley Proprietary Red wine and enjoyed the feeling of completion. After 16 - 18 hour work days for weeks, it was good to be finished.

Monday evening the Library invited some guests to hear a presentation by author George M. Taber. He wrote the excellent book 'Judgment of Paris' which I read about four times on flights from Houston to Oakland and back. Much of the exhibit revolves around the period of that famous 1976 event that really changed the face of the wine world. After the presentation about the Paris Tasting guests gathered in the Library rotunda for a small wine and cheese reception, Mr. Taber signed books and then people started touring through the exhibit. For the most part the feedback was very positive. People seemed to really like the realism of the artificial vineyard, crush pad and cellar...hopefully they read a few of the reader rails and maybe learned a few small things about winemaking or some points that will be beneficial down the road in the quest for expanded wine knowledge and appreciation.

The photo at the top of the page shows a mannequin (as grape picker) carrying a 'just harvested' lug of grapes. (Photo by Wilf Thorne)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Some Last Minute Details...

As the installation work continues everyday at the George Bush Presidential Library, I must also finish some last minute detail work on the weekends at home. Next weekend we will all most certainly be finishing up at the Library so these are my last two days to work at home. One of the items that will be installed on the exhibit entry wall is an antique wine press (about 100 years old) that I found in a barn in Sonoma County, California. This is one of three antique basket presses that I now have for the exhibit. Another even older one that came from Placer County, California will find a temporary home in the libraries rotunda area, and a third will be used to promote the exhibit at various locations. Restoring these old presses has become a true 'labor of love' for me. As I take them apart, pressure wash, strip old paint, varnish and repaint ....or leave with a natural patina, (depending on the look I want) I can only imagine what stories they may tell.

Another last minute detail (that I decided at the last minute to make a detail) was the decision to add some authentic 'terra cotta patina' to my replica Houdon bust of Thomas Jefferson. In reading the official Monticello website page discussing the Houdon busts of Jefferson it is mentioned that the artist Houdon always worked in terra cotta clay for the original and even after plaster of Paris casts were made for duplicates they most often were coated with a thin terra cotta layer to give it a distinct patination. Just as I decided to paint the exhibit replica of Jefferson's dining room in 'chrome yellow' paint (not wedgwood blue) because that is the color of Jefferson's dining room when he actually lived in retirement at Monticello from 1809 - 1826.
I decided that the bust must have a terra cotta patination...not the bland white as it came.

The photo at the top of the page shows the replica Jefferson bust just after appling the terra cotta paint layer. The photo below shows a half of the large wooden basket of one of the antique presses after appling spar varnish but before painting the metal pieces.