Thirty years ago, the sculptor Jim Sardonis of Randolph, Vermont created two large black granite whale tales entitled "Reverence." This sculpture spent 10 years in Randolph before being sold and moved to Technology Park in South Burlington where it remains today. It was originally meant to anchor a sculpture park but that is yet to come about.
Consequently the Preservation Trust of Vermont and the Vermont Community Foundation commissioned Jim to create a larger bronze version, 'Whale Dance' which was installed in July of 2019 and sits on the same spot where "Reverence" spent its first ten years. As you can see in the photo above, 'Whale Dance' is framed by a stunning view of the mountains beyond.
Jim contacted me to remove graffiti. Crayon or lipstick pen appeared in two areas each about 10" square. I agreed to address this immediately even though it was the middle of winter, because graffiti is not only damaging and often ugly, it also encourages more graffiti.
Removal was easy. I applied acetone which removes most paint and other markings from metal without disturbing the patina. Acetone can be used no matter how cold the weather. Luckily the graffiti was not etched which would have required much more work.
It took about a half-hour. After removing the graffiti I applied a dark wax at the artist's request.
In addition to the graffiti removal, I also inspected the sculpture.
There are no cracks. About two dozen pits of 1/16" diameter or less appear across the surface. These are not a concern since there's no indication of any penetration below the patina such as green spots or streaks.
There are scuff marks where kids have climbed over the wide lower surfaces.
A light green sheen appears on the surface indicating that weather may be causing slight oxidation. The artist informed me that this is by design. It makes the dark surface feel more organic and alive, like whale skin. This is surprisingly effective and a wonderful treatment I never saw before.
The sculpture is embedded in the hillside. The foundation is hidden under the surface of the ground. For additional information about the installation please refer to this fine article.
I recommended signage which is proven to reduce vandalism. I also suggested coating the entire surface with a polymer for added protection which we agreed to do in the future.
Why Coat Bronze
Bronze sculpture has traditionally been coated with wax to protect it from
conditions that can harm the metal surface, such as bird droppings, salt air,
and acid rain.
I recommend a polymer coating rather than wax for outdoor sculpture
because it seals small cracks and pits, lasts as much as 10 years (wax lasts less than a year on outdoor sculpture), and is less expensive to apply
Furthermore, polymer coatings are now used by most outdoor sculpture
conservators, reflecting a growing satisfaction with a product that is
relatively new (30 years) in the conservation industry.
This treatment will restore a ‘new’ look which is virtually identical to an
original dark brown semi-gloss bronze patina. The satin effect can be
adjusted by the manufacturer to match perfectly whatever the artists
Plus, no maintenance is required other than wiping with a cotton cloth and
tap water as needed. When the coating fades, a new coat can be applied
without removing the old one, and this can be done by anyone with painting
skills. Two coats can last as long as 10 years depending on weather
I plan to coat “Whale Dance” in the spring. As part of my guarantee, I will return to inspect this work annually for free.