Sunday, August 18, 2013

Patina - Beauty or the Beast?

 I am an artist at heart, and so it isn't at all surprising that I am completely taken with all the lovely bronze statues scattered around Downtown Ogden.

They are absolutely lovely and light-hearted and I smile every time I see them.

Today, however, as I sat on the bench in the park across the street admiring this particular piece, I noticed the varying degrees of Patina on it.

Wikipedia defines Patina thus:

The green patina that forms naturally on copper and bronze, sometimes called verdigris, usually consists of varying mixtures of copper chlorides, sulfides, sulfates and carbonates, depending upon environmental conditions such as sulfur-containing acid rain. In clean air rural environments, the patina is created by the slow chemical reaction of copper with carbon dioxide and water, producing a basic copper carbonate. In industrial and urban air environments containing sulfurous acid rain from coal-fired power plants or industrial processes, the final patina is primarily composed of sulphide or sulphate compounds.
A patina layer takes many years to develop under natural weathering.

Antiques Roadshow defines it:
When you antique furniture shop do you ever wonder what an antique furniture appraiser, antique dealer or auctioneer means when they mention the word “patina” while describing a piece antique furniture? If you were to ask them to define the word for you, they most likely would not be able to do so? It's like saying a piece is "elegant", it's hard to define but if you find a piece that has elegance, you'll recognize it.
So what does "patina" actually mean? There are some who think the answer is simply two words: “old grime.” But that is too much too basic and not completely true. Antique dictionaries define patina as "a film or encrustation on the surface of an object indicating great age". This is a fair beginning but, with antique furniture, it entails considerably more than that. The “Encyclopedia of Furniture,” by Joseph Aronson, defines it as "Color and texture of the surface produced by age and wear. In wood furniture the varnish, shellac or oil has a tendency to deepen yet retains transparency; edges wear smooth and sharp outlines are softened.” This is now getting a little more to the point...
However, that still doesn’t quite define it because all of those particular attributes can easily be replicated by an experienced restorer/refinisher, so there needs to be more to it than that. But Aronson did make a credible attempt to define the term. A good many of the books on antique furniture shun the term completely because it's so difficult to define briefly and correctly, or else
they just mention it in passing. An example can be found in “American Furniture,” by Marvin D. Schwartz, which describes patina as the “Mellow and worn aspect a surface acquires through age; highly desirable quality on most antique furniture.”
John Obbard, in “Early American Furniture” (Collector Books, 2000), goes into more detail stating “Patina is the cumulative effect of age, sunlight, wear and grime on old surfaces of wood and metal …” The “Antiques Roadshow Primer,” by Carol Prisant (Workman, 1999), takes a more humanistic approach, saying patina is “the sheen on a surface caused by long handling …” and that it is “… the accumulation of wax, soil, stains and oils that human hands have left on furniture over the course of many years, have created a smooth film of, well, dirt.” So, there it is...we humans caused it; not sunlight, humidity or the atmosphere.

A decent definition, but the one that I found most aligned with how I feel about Patina is this.

Israel Sack, the famous New York antiques dealer who lived in the first part of the 20th century. Sack is said to have used the following analogy to help define "patina" for one of his senior female patrons: "Today you are a lovely woman of 60. However, who you are today is not who you were when you were 20. The difference is patina."

I like this definition for a lot of reasons.  As I pondered the beauty of the statues in the park today, I noticed that there were some extremely shiny areas, some a dark bronze color and some of the undersides had that greenish crust often referred to when individuals are referring to a copper patina.

Our lives are like those bronze pieces.  There are shiny pieces which have been touched lovingly by people and consequences over the years.  There are pieces that are like the dark bronze which appears untouched, undamaged but unpolished at the same time.  Then there are those deeply crusted parts.  Those parts deeply crusted and scarred by repeated acids of life attacking them.  Where are your shiny parts?  Have you had people and circumstances which have left you shiny and polished?

Where are your "hidden" parts?  Why are they there?  What about those "crusted" areas? Who or what caused or is causing them?  Could they possibly be "polished off" with a loving touch or a kind word?

Art touches the heart and soul in so many ways.  Look around you and contemplate the art in the world.  It will expand your horizons.



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