Area art expert shares advice on preservation at Dogwood lecture

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Whether it is a high-end reproduction of a Picasso painting, a near century-year-old document or a child’s finger painting that belongs to a pair of proud parents, area art expert Dave Makielski has helped frame thousands of different artworks and artifacts over the course of his 50-year career.

Since he first began helping his grandfather frame pictures at the age of 8, Makielski has spent decades helping artists and collectors preserve and enhance their artwork. He continues that work today as the frame designer and gallery director with Granger’s Max Black Fine Art and Custom Framing, where he works with many different clients for their framing needs — clients that include Notre Dame Football Coach Brian Kelly and Cass County Judge Michael Dodge.

“I never know what’s going to walk through the door,” Makielski said. “I’ve had people bring things in that they’re embarrassed to bring in but want it framed. Some things I’ve done I can’t imagine people hang on their walls.”

Makielski imparted his knowledge on framing with audiences at his presentation Tuesday night at the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival offices, as part of the 25th annual festival. In a talk entitled “Framed: Art Identification, Presentation and Preservation,” the Granger man explained how the art framing process works, and how it plays an integral role in ensuring that precious works are preserved or conserved for years to come.

The concept of framing art for protection is not a new one, as the first pieces of framed artwork were discovered in Egyptian mummy tombs, Makielski said. Over the past 1,000 years or so, framing has gone from just a simple way to preserve art to a method that enhances its presentation to the public, he said.

It is this balance between presentation and preservation that framers like Makielski attempt to maintain, he said.

“If you see something framed and the first thing you see is the frame, it’s not framed well, in my opinion,” Makielski said. “I’m very much a traditionalist. The frame should bring you into the art. You should appreciate the art, then look back and say ‘hey, that’s nicely framed, too.’”

Modern frames are made through several different crucial design decisions, which include the method used to mount the work to the frame, the type of matting that should surround the work, whether or not to place glass over the top the art and even which type of method should be employed to mount the piece on the wall, Makielski said.

Even after the art is framed and in place, it is imperative that owners continue to take proper care of the piece. Some tips Makielski gave include making sure to spray cleaning materials like glass cleaner directly onto a rag instead on the glass face of the painting itself, so that chemicals don’t run down into the frame, and to make sure that there’s some room between the wall and the frame to prevent mold growth, he said.

“Mold spores are everywhere, and if they’re given conditions that are right to grow, they will grow,” he said.

Makielski also briefly explained how art collectors can check to see how valuable their artwork is, as a simple 10 to 12 power magnifying lens can reveal whether or not a piece contains small little dots that signify it is a lithograph, a low end print, instead of an original, saving buyers the hassle of spending upwards of $400 to $600 to get the piece appraised.

Makielski also warned against people entering the art speculation market, as it is very difficult to make money reselling artwork, he said.

“You don’t buy art to make money, unless you really know what you’re doing,” he said. “I never sell a piece of art saying it’s going to be worth more money in the future. You don’t know that. You buy art because you love the art. You want to live with the art.”

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