Cleopatra, Queen of ancient Egypt, and her little dog Anubis

Cleopatra was a beautiful and brave queen who consorted with horrible men to save her country and protect her people. She seduced Julius Caesar and bore him a child. When that guy got murdered she moved on to the second most powerful guy named Mark. Oh boy was he an terrible boyfriend. The relationship didn’t last long, and Egypt fell to Rome, and Cleopatra killed herself with a snake.

Leaning on a dead guy

Being an ancient queen, of course Cleopatra had her own statue collection. She is leaning on a mysterious one. At first it seems to be a weird androgynous sphinx but on closer examination, it’s a cadaver. The belly is sewn together with cross stitches and there is a hanging thread between its legs. How creepy is that?

First Attempt

I didn’t have any experience painting anything when I painted this one. I’m a mathematician, not an artist. But I was stuck at home with nothing better to do and I was tired of watching my statue melt in the rain, so I brought her inside and started dabbing at her timidly.

Cleopatra was already painted with a thin black wash. It was wearing off in the rain and the concrete was starting to get raggedy. So I repaired her hair and painted her skin. I gave her eye makeup and gold jewelry. I used earth tones on her clothes. I faded the edges of her dress so it looks like she is emerging from the stone.

Second Chance

The mistake I made involved the top coat. I sprayed it too soon and too close, and the compressed acetone melted some of her freshly applied paint and sent it to the wrong places. Bits of her dress landed on her arm and some of her hair fell to her feet. The effect is interesting. I will probably do this one over eventually.

It is not difficult to repaint a statue. You just strip off the old paint and start over from scratch. Painting and stripping concrete doesn’t change the surface texture at all.

To get old paint off a concrete statue, make a paste of acetone and kitty litter. Wear gloves! Be outdoors! Spread the paste over the statue, then pour a bit more acetone on it, and put a trash bag over it so it doesn’t evaporate right away. Wait about half an hour. Wash it off with a hose and a scrub brush. Repeat if needed.

By Diana Gruber

Mathematician, game developer, and statue painter