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Gnawed Painting

Updated: Aug 19

So tell me if any of you have had this experience...


Art storage is something that any artist has to negotiate on a regular basis. I'm no stranger to the practice. Like anybody else I make an effort to wrap up my paintings and make sure they are in a safe, temperature controlled space. Despite our best efforts, however, things can still go awry.



So I made this little painting for a show at Poem 88 (https://www.poem88.net/ )about Jane Eyre. Its a depiction of the Conyers attic in England, which may have been the real-life inspiration for the imprisoned madwoman in the novel (put this into your search engine if curious, really an interesting story). Anyway, I wanted to do this in egg tempera and oil, which I don't really do too often. On the top you can see the tempera underpainting and on the right you can see the oil layer. I discovered that oil paint dries much slower on top of egg tempera, so I did not have time to apply varnish before the exhibition. At the time I didn't think much of it.

Time passed, the show came down and it was time to put the piece away. Later, when I took it out of its loose wrapping, I saw this:

The white patches are where the paint is missing entirely, and the underlying cotton paper has a fuzzy, raised texture (I use paper mounted on board for egg tempera, which works surprisingly well). Strangely, the paint is gone but the India ink drawing is completely undisturbed. There was some material in the wrapping that I am pretty sure was roach scat- my best working theory is that a roach camped out in the wrapper and gnawed through the paint to ingest the egg layer. I've never heard of anything like this. Has anyone else seen something like this?

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