Questions: Monique Palma Whittaker

Name: Monique Palma Whittaker

Occupation: Art Conservator

Location: Toronto, Worldwide

Astrological sign: Pisces (I’m actually a triple Pisces, rising, moon, ascending)

Official URL(s): mpwrestoration.com

Favourite flower: Damn, that’s a hard one, but I would have to say a rose of any colour. The petals are so velvety and they smell SO GOOD!

Favourite sports team: I’ve never played team sports, I always skied and rock climbed, but I do love watching the Tour de France, so I would have to say my favourite team is spandex.

Most overwhelming personality trait: I would like to think it’s my ability to hold space and connect deeply with others.

Last person you spoke to: My friend Bobby Shore to tell him that his plants are alive and well, I’m babysitting them while he’s away on a project in the UK.

What you ate for breakfast: I had a smoothie with cashew milk, hemp hearts, banana, mixed berries and frozen mango along with a handle of french press and chocolate biscotti.

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What's your favourite scent? Freshly baked bread.

What inanimate object can you not live without? Everything I thought I couldn’t live without perished in a house fire in 2015, so my attachment to any one item whether it be to bolster my perceived identity or bring me joy has turned into a practice and true understanding of impermanence - I can confidently say I can live without most things! That being said, a piece of baleen from a female blue whale survived the fire and I would have to say that that is by far the most cherished inanimate object that I have.

How would you define what you do for a living? Hmmm, essentially I assess damaged artwork (predominantly paintings and interior artwork within churches) analyze the various issues ranging from tears to surface contaminants to oxidized varnishes, etc., then I conduct a series of tests to develop a treatment proposal that best suits the artwork’s needs. From there, I create chemical solutions tailored to the composition of the materials in question and proceed with the patient practice of restoring the artwork followed by retouching if necessary. Slow and steady, it’s important to let time evaporate and enjoy the process of watching the artwork transform. It’s often incredibly tedious and technical, lately I’ve spending a lot of time alone on scaffolding, but the opportunity to be alone in such inspired spaces makes all the brain crunching well worth it!

Favourite artistic material: Contrasting texture of any source. I love cement, plastics and plaster right now, essentially anything that creates a visual tension between various textures or materials, I’m thinking of the works of Robert Gober (the donuts!) Andra Ursuta, Scarlett Bowman, etc.,   

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Ultimate, untimely dreams: LIVE IN THE COUNTRY. I would love to do farm work wearing rubber boots and Christian Dior with a couple puppies (human or animal) in the garden with me. It is my dream to host and cook massive meals for friends and family and go back to having a landline. Oh, and I will have a large hand in the renovation of my farm house and continue to travel often.

What don't you do? Go out! LOL

Where do you find artistic inspiration? I often find most of my inspiration from architecture, the negative spaces in the tableaus of everyday life, dreams, books, museums and of course this cute little place called tumblr...vast access.

What is your current artistic obsession? Oh man, this is a tough one. I am really interested in so much right now. I am currently obsessed with 19th-20th century Canadian landscape paintings. I love how energized these rather quiet compositions are. I think it’s the concinnity of non-prescriptive colour palettes and gestural brush strokes that evokes such an unlikely excitement in these otherwise mundane landscapes; like driving on the 401 to Montreal mundane, how exciting! Some examples off the dome would be Maurice Cullen, Clarence Gagnon, A.J. Casson, etc. I think this obsession amplified when I was gifted a landscape painting by a client recently. Once the piece was cleaned, I became OBSESSED with the soft pinks that were unveiled on the mountain ranges. I still find myself getting lost in the composition, it really is just so captivating!

Also, I am nourishing a long time obsession with painting as a flexible material practice, if an artist wants to call a sculpture a painting let’s follow that! I enjoy works that push or bring light to the traditional methodologies and structure of painting, but do so in relevant way. For example, the works of Imi Knoebel, Alison Schulnik, Analia Saban, Katie Lyle, Vanessa Maltese are very exciting for me. Oh, and another new pending obsession: I just read this article about Alvar Aalto’s “Sanitorium” in Paimio Finland where he used a bright colour palette on the walls such as “welcoming yellow on the main stairs and calming green for the ceilings above bedridden patients.” He designed chairs that would passively open the chest of the patients to help improve breathing and thus, speed healing. Unfortunately, the building’s colours have since been whitewashed, but now the Getty Foundation is trying to restore the space to its original intent which is so incredibly important, but also fascinating to think that different colours could actually contribute to healing. I think I would like to dig deeper into this idea.

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Do you collect anything? I have an art collection that’s growing at a snail’s pace, but mostly I just collect plants and optimum points. ;)

What is your current phone background? It’s just a pure yellow background which is from a photo I took of the back cover of Dodie Bellamy’s “The Buddhist”. Highly recommended read.

Idea of great misery: The loss of physical mobility or sight. Oh, how we take our bodies for granted! What a blessing it is to have a functional vessel!

How do you wish to die? I want to die topless and in sweatpants unexpectedly while sleeping in the middle of the night somewhere in Canada. I want someone to paint a funerary tomb for me like the ones from Fayum.

What tabs are open on your browser right now?

  • An online conservation supply store to order some new chemicals
  • A really dry but informative article on the “Recent Developments in the Conservation of Parchment Manuscripts”
  • A manual for the Wolber’s modular cleaning system
  • An in-depth article about solvent cleaning a particular type of varnished paintings
  • Soundcloud (David Yurman)
  • Gmail Inbox
  • An amazing architectural conservation company in NYC
  • A Sophie Buhai gold disc ring on Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s site (oops)
  • The website about some wooden artifacts I conserved from a naval yard in Pisa
  • Tumblr

Link to an image you feel most accurately represents you:

Wheatfield with Agnes Denes standing in the Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill (Downtown Manhattan), 1982, Agnes Denes

Wheatfield with Agnes Denes standing in the Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill (Downtown Manhattan), 1982, Agnes Denes