La Rogativa ... reborn
Last June, 2016, Laura Daen asked me to put together a proposal on what it would take to re-patina, La Rogativa, the landmark bronze work of the celebrated, late sculptor, Lindsay Daen, located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
What is 'patina' you ask? Well, it is the natural or chemical finish applied over a bronze sculpture. Patina is a layering of color that becomes another expression of the bronze metal, and indeed the sculpture, itself.
The decision to re-patina La Rogativa was an opportunity to rebirth the iconic sculpture to it's original pristine state. I had the opportunity to oversee and implement this entire project to apply the patina.
The legend of this sculpture is fascinating - about the time, long ago, that the bishop and the women saved this city. La Rogativa, is a Spanish word that derives from the verb “rogar” meaning to plea or supplicate. According to historians, British troupes led by Sir Abercrombie took control of the city through a naval blockage on April 30, 1797. The San Juan governor, desperate, ordered a “rogativa” (large marching procession-type plea to God). The women of the city, along with the bishop, paraded through the streets at night starting at the Cathedral singing hymns, carrying torches, bells, and praying for their city to be saved. The British mistook the sights and sounds of that night as evidence that reinforcements that outnumbered them had arrived to protect San Juan. This led Abercrombie’s fleet to abandon the city promptly.
Lindsay sculpted the beloved monument in 1971 and although it has stood the testimony of time the patina was doing it own thing.
The wax build-up of the thousands of candles placed on the base by people who visited the sculpture entranced by it's story, was substantial. Along with the calcification deposits created over forty years, it was time to give it some love. With months of pre-planning and acquiring the tools necessary, we finally began the project in December. With the help of the National Parks Service, who lent some equipment and the all important scaffolding, we began.
Once the first grains of sand hit the metal there was no turning back. We blasted for almost a week. There is a vast surface area on the piece and Lindsay's visceral textures required extra attention. But finally the sculpture once again looked as it did 46 years ago, in the Madrid foundry. When the surface of the bronze is is freshly sandblasted, it susceptible to chemical change, and that's when the patina begins.
Lindsay used a special patina recipe for an outcome that became known as "Lindsay Green", and it is a very virulent green. It would have overpowered the sculpture, and maybe that whole side of the city, so I developed a modified recipe, and did some layering of different chemicals to achieve the desired outcome. This was challenging and took several days of testing and balancing.
As we were getting to the end of the patina, the Local Channel 2 News came and filmed a feature on the project! The sculpture is a national icon attracting thousands of locals and tourists every year.
It was one of the most beautiful job-sites I have ever worked on, next door to the Governor's mansion overlooking the mouth of the San Juan harbor, with Fort El Morro right there, we had an ever changing view as ships were coming and going all the time.
It was all a very amazing experience, and shows how a community can come together and get something done. The funds necessary were raised locally, and The National Parks Service was very helpful as well.
But best of all was our team, Laura, Whin, Cindy and Felipe Jiminez.
Whin would bring us coffee in the morning and healthy lunches, Cindy raised the funds, loved to vacuum sand - and chase off tourists, that wandered too close!
Felipe Jimenez assisted me in my foundry in Puerto Rico, twenty five years ago, and has since forged an amazing career as a sculptor, and has many public works on Puerto Rico. It was a privilege having him on this project, sandblasting and doing a lot of the muscle work.
Laura - as the custodian of Lindsay's art, over saw the entire project as we worked together to rebirth his vision.
And then there is Brad and Gill, who welcomed me to stay in their amazing home which was less than a block from the sculpture, allowing me long days of easy access to the job site.
It was an exceptional project that I was honored to be a part of.
The pictures and time lapse video below tell the story better than I can!