Albert Bierstadt’s The Domes of the Yosemite, 9.5ˊ x 15ˊ(St. Johnsbury Athenaeum), was removed in October 2017, restored, and returned in July 2018.
The centenarian canvas eases away from its long watch, edged around its mammoth frame by attendants mincing like ledge-walkers, then ticks forward into gloved hands down to a papered floor. Across its bared back, a Victorian apparatus of hooks and laces is undone, and now the great uncorseted painting can lift its corners a bit, stretch an old sag after ages of holding it in. Patient hands sweep storied dust and lay out traveling garb. A snug wrap, a cushioned ride—winter at a spa in Miami. Next summer, arriving in a tube stout as a Corinthian column, ends bubbled with red padding, a giant baton passes; the regent scene is unrolled and reset, its broad backside firmed by a chic liner, front taut and vibrant. Gone are mists of age and old varnish, as if you had climbed to Lower Falls and stood pointing at Royal Arches’ crescent scours, spring melt pounding a cold matte spray that silks your face—and with a quick swipe a greyed world dazzles again.
Kenneth Chamlee (Mills River, NC) has two prize-winning chapbooks, Absolute Faith and Logic of the Lost, and his poems have appeared in The North Carolina Literary Review, Cold Mountain Review, Ekphrasis, and many others. Ken teaches regularly in UNC-Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program. Learn more at http://www.kennethchamlee.com.