Designed in 1939 by Lawrence Tenney Stevens, The Doors of Life serve as a portal to the northwest wing of the Malott Commons. They’re massive bronze affairs, with motifs so intricate you could lose hours taking in every nuance and detail.
Gretchen Allen ’14 has done just that. As one of the Scripps College students selected to intern with the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, she’s spent her summer basking in the Claremont sun painstakingly conserving this outdoor treasure.
Working with Williamson Gallery collection manager Kirk Delman and object conservator Donna Williams, Allen has worked tirelessly to clean and re-finish the doors, which were originally installed in the Florence Rand Lang Art Building in 1939. As the doors face the elements, they were in great need of repair; the wax coating began flaking, rainwater created white puddles and streaks, and previous conservation efforts left gummy lacquer on the surface.
The repair and conservation techniques were simple, if not tedious: Allen used stiff dry brushes and wooden skewers to remove much of the surface dirt before applying solvents to dissolve residual wax and lacquer. She later worked with Williams to re-wax the surfaces with a propane torch. Allen says, “For a patina, Stevens preferred the natural glow that came with the rubbing of many hands over the surface of a bronze piece over many years. So, the next time you encounter the doors, give your favorite panel an affectionate pat.”
There are ongoing conservation projects on many of the College’s exquisite outdoor bronze objects, such as Aldo Casanova’s sculpture “Juncture,” and the seals, also designed by Stevens, in Seal Court.