The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am an art historian, currently studying satire in Netherlandish art, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it ekphratic poetry, responding to works of art. This is to be a site for words and images, interacting on one another, as vehicles of human expression.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lazarus at the Rich Man's Kitchen Window 2007

Viewing, on Flickr, "redart" / Marco of Rome's piece "....Hope", (see www.flickr.com/photos/redart_photo/2127203208/ ), I thought that, for Christmas, I would make a piece about those on the margins, who lack the luxuries of the majority of us. This last year I have also been frequently moved by the photographs, also seen on Flickr, of Ahmad Kavousian, of the homeless people he engages on the streets of Vancouver, Canada. His work brings these marginal characters before our eyes with such power and yet sensitivity. Together, redart's "...Hope" and many, many pieces by Ahmad Kavousian--such as his piece, "buying a little hope.....", (see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kavous/2126372984/ ) made me reflect again on the Biblical parable about rich Dives and poor Lazarus.

It seems to me that so many of us in the USA--myself the first and worst offender--are so comfortably ensconced in our affluent lifestyles that we forget--or, worse yet, don't care--about those less fortunate than ourselves. I feel my own shame, and sense the weight of our collective shame, in this regard, most of all as we all spend so much time, money and effort on our family-focused--not even Christ-focused--Christmas.

What do the dispossessed and homeless think of our huge Christmas trees, dripping with ornaments, with piles of gifts--for each other--heaped around the tree trunk, sprawling across our living room floors?

I can only think of two options--perhaps three: disgust--envy--but more likely deep sorrow. We would all do well to turn some of our myopic attention their way, for a change. I know I need to, and am ashamed at my long indifference----far too self-absorbed! Am I alone in this? I don't think so!

Too many of us--myself included--have become too calloused and heartless. I need to make some changes, but I suspect that I am not alone, in that regard.

Clearly, there are some New Year resolutions to make, perhaps they need to be made yet sooner, before Christmas steels up on us!



Meanwhile, I wrote this poem in honor of Ahmad Kavousian's "buying a little hope...":

Ahmad:

Too many lonely people.....
Too much sadness,
You have seen so many
On the streets around you.

You shared them with us,
You showed them to us,
And you remind us again,
That there are always,
Too many lonely people...

Some too rich, most too spoiled,
Your people remind me,
How lucky I am,
How much to thank for!
How much to share.

Today, as Christmas
Approaches, it seems
Too banal,
When others suffer,
To share some joy,
But here are mine,
Re-enacting an old story
Of rejection and goodwill:

to which I attached a photo of my grandchildren, re-enacting the Christmas Nativity, see above.

I also wrote this poem, inspired by "redart / Marco, of Rome's photograph of praying hands, entitled "....Hope":

We join our hands;
We say a prayer,
And hope to live
Another year.

Each one his own pain,
Each his hope does hold.
Each her hands does clasp,
Whether young or old.

This simple gesture,
So much does say!
How strong we be,
We each must pray!

At Christmas time,
Old rituals remind,
Love and rejection,
All humanity bind.

Each our own rituals
Yearly enact,
What grandchildren,
Here make fact:

and accompanied by the same grandchildren's Christmas Nativity photograph.

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John Walford

John Walford
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I am a British-born, art historian, teaching in the USA; I studied law, in England,1964-68; worked part-time in the art world, 1968-69; then studied art history at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1969-76; completed my Ph.D. diss. at the University of Cambridge, 1981; moved to the States in 1981, and have since written, or co-authored, other books. I am currently studying satire in Netherlandish art. My wife, Maria, was born in Milan, Italy, where she worked as an interpreter, in business; she spent seven years in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne, 1963-70. She came to Amsterdam in 1971, and we soon married. She is a wife, mother, literary critic, of Italian (and French) literature, and completed her Ph. D. diss. in 2002, at the University of Chicago, on Cesare Pavese and His Critics. We have three married children, and eight grandchildren, all of whom we excessively adore! I welcome dialog about art, photography, human behavior, beliefs, and motivation from all comers, regardless of race, color, gender, orientation, values, or beliefs. This is to be a site for words and images, as vehicles of human expression, around topics of mutual interest.

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