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Brown Bag Lectures explains art of gilding

| Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
(from left), Maureen Zang, Public Programs Coordinator, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, guest speaker, Emilie Cohen, fine arts conservator, and Barbara L. Jones, Chief Curator, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, gather at the Brown Bag Lecture, held at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg on Wednesday afternoon, February 13, 2013. Kim Stepinsky | For The Tribune-Review
Guest speaker, Emilie Cohen, fine arts conservator, discusses gilding techniques, during the Brown Bag Lecture, held at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg on Wednesday afternoon, February 13, 2013. Kim Stepinsky | For The Tribune-Review
(from left), Bella Feltenberger, kennel technician, Humane Society of Westmoreland County, holding a St. Bernard/Mastiff shelter puppy, joins Beth Brady, of Greensburg, with former shelter Shih Tzu, 'Mitch', and Andrea Godor, of Westmoreland City, with former shelter Yorkie, 'Lola', at the Humane Society of Westmoreland County Have a Heart Buffet Pasta Palooza, held at Ferrante's Lakeview in Greensburg on Sunday afternoon, February 10, 2013. Kim Stepinsky | For The Tribune-Review

Strolling through an art museum, you might not pay much attention to the frames surrounding your favorite paintings. Had you heard the latest Brown Bag Lecture in the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, you might have been inspired to return to the museum for another look.

Emilie Cohen, a fine arts conservator and owner of Emilie Cohen Studios in Lawrenceville, stopped by Wednesday to explain the fine art of gilding, the labor-intensive, meticulous process by which a plain surface such as a picture frame is given a luxe finish of glittering gold.

You would have learned that gilding seems to have originated 5,000 years ago in Egypt. And that it takes a veritable menagerie of animals to supply the gilder's instruments, what with the use of rabbit-skin glue, squirrel-hair brushes and the traditional burnishing tool with the dog's tooth tip.

And that success depends on that one element common to so many endeavors: “The key to a beautifully burnished surface,” Cohen said, “is in the preparation.”

Not to mention the patience needed, as the process takes several days to complete and the gold leaf itself is so light and delicate that the slightest breath of air can send it fluttering off.

The lecture was given in conjunction with the just-closed “Your Art Needs You!” exhibition of museum holdings in need of conservation. Public programs coordinator Maureen Zang said the drive to fund conservation of those pieces is ongoing.

Listening in were museum staffers Judy O'Toole, Barbara Jones, Doug Evans and Casey Bowser.

Also seen: Carrie Hutsko, Margaret Herron, Henry Kwolek, Cammy Matusz, Carol and Lynn Probst, Jeanie Clark, Mary Veazey Clark, Tom Murphy and Sarah and Charles Lucas.

— Shirley McMarlin

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