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The Science of Oxidation

oxidationOxidation is a natural process that occurs at the molecular level. It happens when electrons are transferred between two materials.

The loss of electrons is called “oxidation”; the gain of electrons is known as “reduction”. A simple definition of “oxidation” is the loss of electrons when two materials interact.

Have you ever seen a copper penny that has turned green, or untouched sterling silver that has tarnished? Oxidation is the culprit.

For a quick example of oxidation, bite into an apple and let it sit on the counter, the expose organic fruit will turn brown in a few hours. Bananas turn brown after a few days. The oxygen molecules in the air and the molecules of the fruit are interacting, the fruit is losing electrons, oxidation is in progress.

In the case of gelcoat and fiberglass boat hulls, exposure to the natural elements of the sun, water, and air will cause the original shine of the gelcoat or fiberglass surface to oxidize; visually, the surface has become chalky, cloudy and dull.

From the day your launch your watercraft oxidation is at work on its surfaces. Oxidation happens. It can not be stopped, but it can be delayed.

The Art of Oxidation

Not all oxidation is destructive, the process can be constructive and aesthetically pleasing. Several artists have used this natural process (the exchange of electrons between two materials) as a medium for conveying expressions of art.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was an American artist know for his Pop-Art. However, his work using the natural process of oxidation is considered to be Abstract Expressionism.

In Andy Warhol’s 1978 Oxidation Paintings, art and science collide. The artist used copper metallic pigments and urine as his medium; the copper paint’s natural oxidation process was augmented by the compounds in the body fluid. While some might see his choice of medium as questionable or even offensive, the colors and patterns that resulted from the oxidation process maybe considered expressive of industrial decay. His Oxidation Painting #3 is unique, the patterns in this painting have a topographic quality not seen in other Warhol Oxidation Paintings, and the colors are reminiscent of the natural tones found in the American Southwest.

The Abstract Expressionism art movement is often described as rebellious and idiosyncratic; the movement was a direct challenge the boundaries of “traditional art”. Andy Warhol’s Oxidation Paintings certainly challenged a viewers art experience by contrasting a questionable choice of medium with a distinctive visual expression.

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