Gallery Walk

by Maya Sabatino
Art by Megan Xu
Issue: Metanoia (Winter 2017)

I couldn’t get it out of my mind, why would my teacher send me to do research for such an easy course? She said it was a necessity, even if I didn’t want to go. She felt that “I was oblivious to life outside my smart phone. I was close-minded and I was a tadpole who didn’t know anything beyond my small pond.” She finished her statement grumbling about failing me if I didn’t bring back a new perspective from my field trip. So with my phone’s map in hand, I proceed on the Sunday bus through the city to my assigned destination. The trip was quite out of the way but I couldn’t afford to fail the class. Liking photos on Facebook made the ride shorter and I arrived in no time.  

I opened my phone to take a couple of pictures of the unusual shaped building and snapchatted my friends. I was walking to the entrance when a guy bumped me. He was taking pictures of some reproduction called the Trevi Fountain. We scowled at each other, then returned to our phones and didn’t say anything. There was no line at the ticket desk and the lone employee scanned my digital ticket I pre-purchased.

The gallery echoed as I entered. I checked the time on my phone and sighed — only fifteen minutes had pass. Just before I could place my phone back in my pocket the double chime of my text tone saved me. Without taking my eyes away from the screen I walked to the bench in the middle of the room and sat. Twenty minutes passed and I hardly noticed. I had responded to several texts and emails when a noise startled me. Someone had coughed in the next room. I looked up.

The dust floated in the room like shimmering gold leaf. Other than the figures, the room was a blank slate. It had dark umber walls like velvet, encasing us all — capturing the moment. The light of our eyes matched the white crown molding that perfectly framed the space.

At first glance, the individuals were not particularly interesting but upon closer inspection each was a unique person. They had a diversity: austere blacks, contrasting whites, square featured oranges and blotchy blues. And figures comprised of all sorts of flourishes, points and squares. Against one wall was a most interesting subject a girl whose edges were smudged by some windy garden air. On an opposite wall was woman with a severely topsy-turvy face. One man stood exposed ten feet above all the others, glowing ivory white, showing off all his physical perfection and yet his expression exposed his internal imperfections.

My first critique was of a man, smartly dressed in a bowler hat and a face of a waxy Granny Smith apple — a forbidden fruit. He was surreal. In the glassy surface of his face I saw the reflections of society’s evils and desires. I picked up my phone to take a picture but no filter did his qualities justice and I slipped the device back into my pocket.

To the left of apple-faced man was a genderless figure. The figure was completely emotionless. Its boldly colored attire struck me. It was geometrically patterned with horizontal and vertical lines and pops of colors. The figure was so square it emphasized the simplicity. The different textures and materials added depth to its character. The minimalism of the figure’s personality created an enthusiasm I couldn’t explain.

As I shifted my gaze a ghostly figure of man caused me to feel something entirely different. He was pale, sickly colored, cloaked in black and was framed by clashing blues and reds. His navy colored eyes were restless. They filled me with a terror. A terror I couldn’t escape. He opened a cavernous toothless mouth to speak. Nothing came out. Not a word. Not a sound. An infinite silent scream. I looked away in horror.

My phone startled me by its ringing and buzzing. I quickly rejected the call and turned my attention to a small dog. A dog I would have affectionately called “Spot” due to its appearance. To its owner’s dismay, the playful puppy hopped around. Its owner was uncomfortably warm in her floor length dress. She was completely shadowed with dots and specks that made her look pixelated. Everything from the pink carnation on her hat to her shoes were speckled. I could see the wall right through her. Her gloved hand held a parasol and this struck me as old-fashioned but it was perfect for an afternoon picnicking by the lake. I could see her clearly, watching boats with her binoculars, and walking the dog along the beach. In this way she taught me about how she lived.

My phone chimed again. I turned it off.

I sat for hours silently conversing with everyone in the room. Suddenly someone politely told me to leave. It was closing time. I left the room and my new friends and even after all that time they hadn’t said a word out loud to me.  

The next day, I made my way back to my art professor’s classroom, still reflecting on yesterday’s adventure. She glanced up at me from her grading and smiled, as if she knew how my recent experience impacted my outlook on life. “How was your trip to the Museum, Warren?”

I smiled quietly.

“That’s what I thought. But now the real question: Can your smartphone do that?”