The Details in the Fabric
B.A Van Sise
A curator decides, quite simply,
what other people see, so
see this: it is Thursday. The sun
is setting, the room is small,
there’s a yellow lamp on a brown desk,
and a dozen people with no
working eyes are receiving
a museum tour for the blind.
She pulls up on a computer
the whole exhibit, which she exhibits to
them by description. No one objects
when she says red. What is red
if not a feeling? All listen
patiently as she finely details
every aspect and angle of
paintings made to sell things
that no longer exist to people
who are no more. I’m sitting
opposite her in a chair. I’ve
come because my sight is
growing dimmer. Little floaters
that increase in number daily. A
curator tells me about the past so
I can imagine a future,
and I close my eyes and listen to
stories of lovely lovers in love,
here to sell collars and cocktails.
There are questions:
No one asks about the brush strokes
or the borders, and instead
stick to the details in the fabric:
what does the dress feel like?
asks one. Another wants
to know about the sound she’s shown-
when she touches his hand,
does it feel clammy?
A curator decides what people see,
and answers them patiently: soft
cotton. Dry skin.
Yes, it is, she says, when
the youngest woman asks
Is the wine glass cold
when it touches their lips?
And confirms when the oldest
decides they look sad,
they don’t look passionate,
they look tired.
Another tries to make out
rough static: it’s the rain,
it’s the rain, she declares,
right before the tour ends
and I walk out the door, into night.
B.A. Van Sise is an author and photographic artist focused on the intersection between language and the visual image. He is the author of two monographs: Children of Grass: A Portrait of American Poetry and Invited to Life: After the Holocaust. He has previously been featured in solo exhibitions at the Center for Creative Photography, the Center for Jewish History and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. He is a New York State Council on the Arts Fellow, winner of a Leonian grant, a PX3 award-winner, and an IPPY gold medalist.