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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Monday, March 31, 2008

And Then There Was Penelope, 2008

Some of you have been following the extraordinary odyssey of my friend, John Fawcett, as he has fought back against ravaging cancer for now a long time. Once more, over Easter week, he seemed to go right to the brink, lose the capacity to form sentences, and then awoke on Easter morning as lucid and feisty as ever.

Not only is this man one terrific fighter, with a courage that puts a lesser mortal, such as me, to shame, but what of his wife Margie?

With two small children, and a husband who takes us all on such a roller coaster, and simply refuses to give in to the enemy that eats his mortal flesh, and who must keep her family going, where does she find her strength, resilience, and courage to fend off her own fears and despair, and sustain a balanced environment for her children?

As I think of these two, John and Margie, my thoughts turned to an ancient and famous epic tale, that of Odysseus, and, in so doing, I considered, in a new light, the under-sung heroine of that story, his wife Penelope. Hence these few lines and accompanying image: "And Then There Was Penelope...."

To their modern counterparts--and to all such who inspire us with their fortitude--these words and images are thankfully dedicated.

(To view the image and text larger, please follow the link under the photograph, and then choose "all sizes" and then "large.")

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day, originally uploaded by TGKW.

Tommy Ga-Ken Wan (Flickr's TGKW) knows how to use light, to illuminate, metaphorically, as well as literally. His photostream is filled with works of an extraordinary, cinematic effect, somewhat Hopperesque, and often poignant.

I remember his photograph, "The Remains of the Day," seen here, when he first uploaded it, October 17, 2007. I returned, by chance to his photostream today, drawn in by another powerful portrait, and, revisiting this piece, knew I had to write about it, as follows. Since Tommy is of Asian descent, though he lives in Glasgow, I kept the words as few as possible. I hope he will understand:

"Remains of the Day -
What Does He Know?

Under my cap,
Inside my skull,
Lurk memories
Too hard to tell.

What thinks this boy,
My image to take?
What knows he,
Of an old man's fate?

The boy with the camera,
Understands well,
That lined faces like these,
Have much to tell,

And, some of it,
Yes, some of it,
With his camera
He tells.

---JW, 3/29/2008

Here is a more recent work by Tommy, entitled "Jonny," uploaded to Flickr, March 20, 2008 (see: >Jonny, originally uploaded by TGKW ):

I wanted to post both of these photographs by Tommy together, since one is black and white, the other color; one is an older man, the other a younger man; both men are in trains, and both are pensive. Consider Tommy an observant and sensitive photographer, as seen even in this small evidence--a mere two works from the many he has produced.

Ladybug Seeks Spring Release, II, 2008

After such a long, hard winter, finally we see signs of Springtime stirrings.
The creatures around us seem to feel the relief, just as we do, being creatures too! We delight separately, but in each others' sight.

After months and months of nothing but chill, and yet deeper chill, how good the feeling of those first warm rays of sun, striking the side of the face, bringing succor to flesh and soul..

(To view the image and text larger, please follow the link under the photograph, and then choose "all sizes" and then "large.")

Friday, March 28, 2008

San Michele, Pavia, Italy, 2008

San Michele, Pavia, Italy, originally uploaded by artundform.

Artundform's "San Michele, Pavia, Italy," (Uploaded to Flikr, March 24, 2008, see: reminds me of my own visits to this same church. But I did not see what he saw, which touches my heart, and inspires these words:

"Soft Sunbeams in San Michele"

Golden, mellow shafts of light,
Penetrating a dark, church interior,
On old columns pours forth
Its radiant splendor.
Sunbeams, breaking into
Our dark hearts,
Likewise bring a ripe
That lightens our darkness.
Come, today! Oh Sunbeam
And softens our hard edges,
Just as here you strike
A Romanesque column,
In San Michele, Pavia.
--JW, 3/28/2008.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tim Lowly, Portrait of a (Tondo)

portrait of a (tondo)
portrait of a (tondo), originally uploaded by t i m o.

Sometimes, a painter, like Tim Lowly, strays into the medium of photography, and works on it a peculiar form of painterly alchemy, bringing forth bewitching forms, as here:

"The Girl with the Pearl Earring"

The tondo form,
How well
The human head
Does frame!

Glancing sideways,
This gorgeous form,
Does command,
My full acclaim.

If I were to choose
Just one work of you,
This would clinch
Your rising fame.

And Jan Vermeer
Would cast down
His single pearl;
And ne'er rise again.
--John Walford, March 27, 2008.

GATOR10 by Axollot

Uploaded to Flickr on March 24, 2008 by axollot, see:

"Watch where you cool yourself"

Dappled leaves, crisscrossed by tree-trunks
Cast their shadows across the still surface
Of this quiet pool, in which I think to cool myself,
From the steamy heat of a Florida day.
Alas! No sooner did I dip my toe,
And stir the surface of the water,
Than, to my horror, saw
That humped neck,
With bulging eyes,
And long jaws,
Flip round my way,
And snap.

--John Walford, March 27, 2008.


INVERNO, originally uploaded by stefano.sivieri.

stefano.sivieri's INVERNO (uploaded to Flickr, 26 March 2008) is one of those rare photographs that combines a mellow beauty with a deep content. I shall return later to write more about it.

"Where Things Remain The Same," 2008:

Wrapping her usual scarf
Snugly round her neck,
Her head nestled into
The woolen warmth
Of a familiar garment,
Still in her house shoes,
She stepped out
Into the cold.

The old cobbles pressed
Against her soles,
In the same old way,
Worn and uneven,
Like the patched walls,
And the warped window frames.
The walls exude a mellowed warmth,
As too her woven, woolen skirt.

Her scarf, skirt and jacket,
Like window, wall, and door,
In harmonic concord coexist,
Through the dance of time,
Grown mellow together--
An intimate world,
In which each the other knows,
And things remain the same.

-- John Walford, March 27, 2008.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Under the Still Surface

Nature looking at it self

Tonight I returned to Idea-Listic's "Nature looking at itself," uploaded to Flick, October 22, 2007 (see: Nature Looking At Itself) and pondered:

Under The Still Surface

That surface of water, so still, unruffled, calm,
What dark secrets does it hide?
Scum, dirt, weed, slime, and filth?
And things yet worse! A rusty gun,
Tossed there after a bank heist;
The corpse of someone's wife's mother,
Thrown there years ago to cover a crime.
A dead dog, that once barked in the neighbors yard,
One time too many, early on a Sunday morning.
An unwanted child, left there to drown,
And the bones from a thousand fish.

All such works of darkness allude the eye,
That glances contentedly over the surface,
And senses only a great tranquility.
Now look deep into my eyes,
And what do you see?
Glistening surfaces, white, black, and blue,
Beyond which lies unfathomable darkness,
Like secrets buried in a tranquil lake.
--- John Walford, Passion Week, 2008.


Apollo_Heralds_The_Dawn_2008Apollo_Heralds_The_Dawn_2008, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

What Rests, Must Stir:

The ground, long somnolent ,
Lies hard under the icy snow;
Beasts huddle in the cold;
And mortals rest under their covers,
Until Apollo calls forth the light,
And, beast, bird, and all must stir,
And set about their dawn routine.
--JW, 03/16/08

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spectacles at Auschwitz

I went to visit Rhys400D's photo-stream on Flickr, because he always shows me something of England to refresh my eyes. But today, instead, he shocked me with his photograph from Auschwitz, Spectacles uploaded February 16, 2008), shown above. His image moved me to these few, simple words:

Where Are They Now?

Behind those lenses
Once eyes did gleam;
Between those frames
A temple once held;
Where did all the eyes go?
Where all the minds?
Where ring the voices
Of a thousand wretched souls?
Oh God! Did you see them?
Did you hear them?
Do they now rest with you?
--JW, 03/16/08

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Still the same path, day long

Still the same path, day long
Still the same path, day long, originally uploaded by ionushi.

I first saw this photograph, "Still the same path, day long," by Ionushi (see: ) some time ago, and seeing it again, today, in a different context, it moved me again as it did when I first saw it, and wrote of it at the time:

"Catching the Snowflakes"

Roofs like upturned umbrellas,
Ready to catch the falling snow;
Cheerful reds and yellows, green,
Muted by the softly-falling snow flakes;
Quietness, a sense of time standing still,
Yet a lone figure makes his way,
Treading in the footsteps of others,
Time after time, the same old routine,
Set to the rhythm of nature;
Dreams of foregone ages,
Sundered by lamppost and umbrella.
--John Walford, 9/27/07

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John Walford

John Walford
Not All That Meets The Eye

About Me

My photo
United States
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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