There's a science behind cleaning Joslyn Art Museum sculpture - Omaha.com
Published Monday, February 18, 2013 at 1:30 am / Updated at 2:59 pm
Kaleidoscope of color
There's a science behind cleaning Joslyn Art Museum sculpture

Ten years ago, Dave Pugh was hired to clean windows at the home of Omaha philanthropists Sue and Walter Scott.

And later, a Dale Chihuly chandelier that graces their front entry.

“For years, I told the guys that work for me, 'Don't even look at that thing because I don't want to clean it,'” said Pugh, owner of Perfect Image Window Cleaning of Omaha.

But when Sue Scott asked Pugh to clean it, he did. And he did it well enough that when the Joslyn Art Museum acquired a Chihuly piece, she recommended him to handle its cleaning.

The piece, “Chihuly: Inside and Out,” was crafted and acquired by Joslyn in 2000, as a gift from the Scotts.

The colorful glass sculpture is on permanent display in the museum's east atrium. It weighs 15,000 pounds and contains more than 2,080 pieces.

Joslyn provides Pugh with a 40-foot scissor lift to clean the sculpture from top to bottom.

The first time Pugh cleaned the piece, he said, he started by getting on his knees and praying that he wouldn't get hurt or break anything.

“I'm so nervous,” Pugh said, recalling that first cleaning. “I can feel sweat running down my chest and arms.”

Pugh feels better about cleaning it now, but he still uses an abundance of caution.

Each piece of glass slides off a stainless steel stud. Pugh removes just four or five pieces at a time and marks where each belongs. He wraps each piece in towels and plastic foam so they are safely cushioned on the work platform. Then, one by one, he unwraps and cleans each piece. When each group of pieces is clean, he returns the pieces to their places in the artwork. And then repeats the process.

The cleaning method itself is simple, he said, and involves just a wet towel and dry towel. He takes two to three minutes to clean each piece and about a week to complete the job.

“It's nerve-wracking, but I find it a great honor,” Pugh said. “I enjoy it.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1304, kelsey.stewart@owh.com

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