Uncrated tracked down Preparator, Mary Nicolett, to talk about her job at the Museum. Mary is a key member of the installation team and is known for her keen eye and attention to detail.
Describe your job in 50 words or less.
My official title is “Preparator, Logistics Facilitator,” which is a fancy way of saying that when I am not busy as a preparator moving, installing or taking care of the art, that I am ordering supplies or tools in preparation for the teams’ upcoming tasks.
What might an average day entail?
My days and weeks vary, depending upon what installation we are working on. I may be moving works in storage, building archival boxes for delicate items, researching the newest drills, touch-up painting the walls, or installing an intricate or obsessive artwork. There are always the deliveries and pick-ups that interrupt the flow of the day, but I am lucky that I get to uncrate works of art, which sometimes makes me the first person in the building that gets to see something new! Only one thing is consistent in my day: the coffee during our afternoon break.
How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
I am continually learning. My coworkers have a wide variety of talents, and both the exhibitions and collections departments work wonderfully together as a team. I learn something new during most installations. The variety of artworks that enter the building vary in age, material and construction and thus their needs differ. This diversity continually specifies what techniques or care are needed in order to preserve the works, keeping us on our toes.
Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
I was too busy being a kid to think about a career, but I was very influenced by my father who worked as an architectural draftsman and took some evening terracotta studio courses from Octavio Medellin. My ease in math, geometry and spatial relationships steered me towards a degree in sculpture, but even then I did not think about working at a museum.
What is your favorite work in the DMA collection?
That is a tough question, as the answer probably changes with my moods! The lovely Indonesian textiles from the Sarawak area, with their wealth of history, intricacy of detail, and process of dying the wefts prior to weaving are inspirational to me. I have continual fondness for the graceful serenity of the Henry Moore maquettes. But, I have to admit, my first week at the museum I just HAD to see Tom Wesselmann’s Mouth #11, as I remember it from an elementary school tour, when the DMA was at Fair Park.
Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?
The J. M. W. Turner exhibition was fantastic! The layout and gallery design with the moldings created a perfect environment for his works. I like contemporary art more than landscapes and port scenes, but his paintings continually stopped me in my tracks while doing my duties. The upcoming Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit has many challenges for us ahead, and our designer, curator and exhibition team are still in the process of deciding all the intricate details that go into such a show. With this being our first big “fashion” exhibition, I look forward to dressing the mannequins and getting an up-close view of the pieces, some of which are more like strange sculptural forms than clothing.