“I’m an art nerd,” Jodie Utter admits, and a bit of science nerd, too. Luckily for her, as conservator of works on paper for Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Utter has found the perfect job for combining both her passions.
B. J. O. Nordfeldt (1878–1955)
Fisherman’s Family, 1916
Woodcut on paper
Utter oversees all the museum’s works of art on paper, monitoring the condition of the art, repairing tears and cleaning pieces that are dirty. She also monitors the environment, making sure optimum conditions for the well being of the art are maintained.
Utter grew up with a love for art and museums, but she began her college years studying to be a marine biologist. Then, when she had earned her bachelor’s degree in biology with minors in chemistry and studio art, Utter changed direction again.
“I realized that biology was just much too slow,” Utter says.
So she turned back to her love for art, and while she was volunteering at a museum, “Someone suggested I should be a conservator,” Utter says.
That suggestion led Utter to the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, one of only about four art conservation schools in North America, and in 1995 she earned her Master of Science degree.
“It’s a niche opportunity,” Utter says in explaining the scarcity of such programs. “Most of the jobs are associated with institutions of some kind, and not that many institutions can afford their own conservator.”
Utter joined the Amon Carter staff in late 2006. One of Utter’s most important jobs is making sure that fragile works of art are protected and preserved.
Even the act of exhibiting works of art, especially watercolors, leads to degradation, such fading colors. So Utter helps decide how long a work can be exhibited, and then how long it should be stored afterward to preserve the work.