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Living with Art in a Tropical Environment

Published Aug 2, 2007 - (Updated Dec 11, 2012)

Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Summer/Fall 2007 issue.

The paper and chemicals traditionally used in photography make it especially vulnerable to damage, such as fading, mold and disintegration, from exposure to light, humidity and heat. Special technology and products used in the printing and mounting processes, along with temperature and humidity-control of the space where photos are displayed or stored, can circumvent the risk. Today’s digital photography processes also help minimize susceptibility to deterioration from the elements. If you own photographic art here in Vallarta and leave for extended periods, unless the piece is displayed in a climate- and humidity-controlled space, it is best removed from the wall, wrapped in foam or acid-free paper, and stored in a room protected from the elements.

Salt air can wreak havoc on some art made of metal. Iron, for example, rusts almost immediately unless sealed or varnished. The patina of a cast bronze sculpture, on the other hand, is naturally enhanced by the reaction salt air precipitates. Twice a year, a light polishing (using neutral Kiwi shoe wax) of bronze sculptures is recommended to protect the finish and retain the original patina. Sculptures made of clay (baked at a high temperature to prevent deterioration) also weather well in Vallarta.

Paintings made with oils are less apt to sustain damage from a tropical climate, but it is a good idea to seal the back of the canvas with a piece of plastic affixed to the edge of the frame with acid-free tape to help minimize exposure to humidity accumulated in walls. To remove dust, give canvases a twice-yearly cleaning using a dry, longhaired soft brush in a zigzag or circular motion.

Watercolors can also be altered by sunlight and humidity. Matting may have to be replaced from time to time. Preventative measures include hanging watercolors on inside walls, where water absorption is less, and positioning them away from direct sunlight to avoid fading and color changes.

Special care must be taken if art is in a frame with glass, which could precipitate a terrarium response — moisture dripping down and potentially ruining the piece — if temperature and humidity are not controlled. With some works on paper, it is best to have a stiff backing like fiberboard or plywood versus mat or cardboard to avoid rippling. Termites are another risk factor. Avoid frames and stretcher bars made of pine and other soft wood, unless they have been and will continue to be treated.


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