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Why John DeAndrea's "Linda" sculpture won't be seen at the Denver Art Museum anytime soon

This is one in a series of posts in honor of Denver Arts Week that salute some of our favorite people and places on the arts scene.

"Linda," John DeAndrea's life-like sculpture of a sleeping woman, is one of Denver's favorite and most mysterious artworks. Since the Denver Art Museum acquired her in 1984, she has only been on view periodically and hasn't had a public showing since 2009. And there are no current plans to bring the polyvinyl human out for display. However, Sarah Melching, Director of Conservation at the museum, and Kate Moomaw, Assistant Conservator of Modern and Contemporary Art, took a few minutes to tell us how Linda is preserved and why she stays hidden away.

Westword: "Linda" is only on view periodically. Why isn't she on display all the time, and where does she go when she's not being featured?

Sarah Melching: I would say the reason Linda is kept in storage for periods of time is to ration out the amount of display time, in order to preserve her for the long term. The materials that she is made of tend to be light-sensitive, so they will deteriorate over time. We're just trying to make her last well into the future. When she's not on display, she is kept in a completely dark environment in a special storage container. The climate is controlled. All efforts are to preserve the materials for as long as possible.

How did the Denver Art Museum acquire "Linda"?

She was a museum purchase with contributing funds from the group we call Collector's Choice. Sometimes this group raises funds for the museum, sometimes these funds go to supporting the museum, sometimes the funds go toward programming, and sometimes the funds go toward the purchase of specific artwork. In this case, the funds from Collector's Choice supported the purchase of "Linda".

Does the museum get requests for her?

Absolutely. Every time she goes on display, there's a little bit of advertising in advance that she will be back on view. It generates a lot of public interest. People definitely come to the museum specifically to see "Linda."

There has to be a fascination with this particular piece.

She is just extremely life-like. At that point in John DeAndrea's career, he was very interested in using materials that would look as life-like as possible. One reason he liked the polyvinyl was because he could manipulate it and actually put hair into it so that it looked like it was growing from a follicle.

Does "Linda" have real hair?

Well, yes. I don't know what the source is, but the hair on her head and on her arms is all human.

Are there other John DeAndrea pieces in the museum?

We have a piece called "Artist and Model," and it's actually a self-portrait of John DeAndrea and another model, not Linda.That came off view about fourteen months ago. Its not currently on view; It is in museum storage.

Is there a panel or a group of people that decide when these pieces come out?

There is actually something we call a programming committee that helps determine that. It consists of representatives from various departments within the museum.

Is there anything else that you think the public would be interested to know about "Linda," as a piece, in particular?

We care a great deal about "Linda" and about her preservation. There has been a fair amount of research internally by some former staff members about the composition of "Linda"; all of that information contributes to how we now know to best preserve her. Protecting her from light and keeping her in very stable environmental conditions, which we have at the museum. Metering her time on exhibit helps us fulfill that goal.

Will "Linda" be on view anytime soon?

Kate Moomaw: Well, let me just start with that I have not heard if she is coming back on view anytime soon. And we're usually given notification well in advance.

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies