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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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Flickr's Catch the Dream's "A Search for Silvery Dream"

"Cast out your Nets"

Cast our your nets,
Cast away pollution,
Renew your rivers,
Refresh your souls,
Cast out your nets,
Again,
Cast out your nets
Again, and again,
Keep casting,
One day,
One day,
They will
Be full.
--JW, Dec 31, 2009.

This image, like the one immediately posted below, both from Flickr's "Catch the Dream" speak to me of toiling long, toiling hard, before any sign of harvest is returned. They thus speak to me of hope amid great difficulty, of rising to challenges, never despairing.

Flickr's Catch the dream's "The Dreamwalker," 2009


The Dreamwalker, originally uploaded by Catch the dream.

"Days of the Dream-walker"

How many days must we toil our field?
How many nights must we wonder?
How many disappointments must we
Learn to overcome? Oh! How many?

How many times will we repeat our bad ways?
How much patience will be shown toward us?
How much grace must we to others extend? -
Before we reach our dreams, reap what's sown?

The wise say: What we sow, we will reap.
The bad we do, it haunts our dreams.
The good we do, we see not where it went.
Yet please tell us, we labored not in vain.
--JW, for Catch the dream, Dec 31, 2009.

As the symbolic last post--together with the one above, also by Flickr's Catch the Dream--of the first decade of the new millennium, it seemed fitting to write about dreams and longing, about past labors and future hopes, on such a night, in the final 45 minutes of 2009. Catch the Dream's "Dreamwalker" seemed to express just how one might feel in passing from one decade to the next, and his photograph (above) of the fisherman casting his net into a polluted river speaks to me in similar ways.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flickr's Heniusia's "Moving swiftly...."


Moving swiftly...., originally uploaded by Heniusia.

"One Lone Biker - Lots of Snow"

We like our grids and right angles
Straight roads, straight driveways,
Lampposts standing straight, and tall,
All like soldiers, marching in rank and file.

Nature throws up its arms in gay abandon,
Flinging bent branches this way and that,
Forking, reaching, leaning out, joyful,
Up, down, out and around, never just pat.

Then comes the snow: covers works of
Man and Nature under pure, soft blanket,
Harmonizing all, until one lone figure,
Lime green--to be seen--bikes through it.

Then there is Heni, her eye alert as usual.
Seeing the winter poetry, carefully captures
So we see blended, organic and geometric -
Holding up, everywhere, bundles of snow!
--JW, for Heniusia, with thanks for 2009, and best wishes for 2010, Dec 30, 2009.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Flickr's Hurith's "Magnificat"


Magnificat, originally uploaded by Hurith.

"Caught in the Coils of Creation"

He hung there, for you and I,
Hung there till death did choke
His life out. Hung there for all.
Now he hangs there, in stone,
Feeding the imagination, as
His own creation coils around him,
Choking his body once again.

A body choked, our spirit to release,
Yours, mine, even the Creation!
Two Thousand and Ten, and still
We doubt, fight, scorn and turn away.
Yet the Son of God calls to us,
Calls through the techo-clamor,
Even through this memory of decay.
--JW, for Hurith, Dec 29, 2009.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Incarnation Cross, or Generations Waited for What We Look Back and Celebrate, 2007

This large ‘digicoll’ (digital photographic collage, printed on vinyl, size approx. 4' x 6') was made for Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Warrenville, Illinois, for Christmas, 2007, and is once again hanging in the sanctuary, above the altar for this season.
It also features in Tyndale Publishing's beautiful, and highly creative new Mosaic Bible, 2009, see: http://www.tyndale.com/products/biblesref/details.asp?isbn=978-1-4143-2205-6

This “Incarnation Cross,” is my attempt to express a central meaning of the Incarnation, as Immanuel's Pastor George Garrison has emphasized, namely that this child, the ‘lamb of God,’ was born to offer Himself as a sacrifice for us, through death on a cross. Beyond that, I wanted to evoke how the moment of Incarnation sliced through eons of time, time past for those who long waited, and time thereafter, as His purposes are worked out, and we wait for His return.

Thus each arm of the cross is comprised of a panoramic cloudscape, taken on a trans-Atlantic flight, to evoke a sense of great spans of space and time. The central, vertical section slices through this horizontal journey through space and time, to suggest the dramatic intervention of the Incarnation in world history. There is a slight difference between the light and shapes on either side, a bit darker, on the left side, before the Incarnation, and an opening in the clouds somewhat in the shape of a heart, on the right side.

The vertical section is comprised of details from Hugo van der Goes’s 15th c. Portinari altarpiece (made for a Florentine merchant resident in the Netherlands, and now in the Uffizi Museum, Florence). From this altarpiece I have taken the key figures, Joseph & Mary, adoring the Christ Child, lying on the ground. He lies parallel to a sheaf of wheat, below him. This recalls the ‘bread of life,’ come down from heaven, to nourish us. The large areas of blood-red evoke the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice.

No surprise that we, as church worshipers, like the angels, surround Him in adoration. The golden angels at top are taken from Ghiberti’s ‘Gates of Paradise,’ on the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral, in which context they wonder at the Creation of Eve. This brings us full circle, from our creation to our redemption. We are now of the generations that look back to the Incarnation, with wonder, and await Christ’s return, as surely as our forebears anticipated his Incarnation.

--John Walford, December 25, 2009, wishing all or any reader God's revelation of Himself, in light of what Christmas commemorates and properly celebrates.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Flickr's Rongzoni's "Dreaming"


Dreaming, originally uploaded by Rongzoni.

"How Will It Be?"

Standing, watching, dreaming,
Wondering at glimmering water,
Holding its dark secrets, under
A shimmering surface. Sunlight,
Lending life to all it touches,
And here, the chance to ponder,
What will the new year bring?
--JW, Dec 23, 2009.

Flickr's * WE * Ahmad & Graça's "Shadows on the wall"


Shadows on the wall, originally uploaded by * WE * Ahmad & Graça.

"Silent Speaking Shadows"

Shadows, shimmering in their insubstantial softness,
Unreal presences of something else yet real,
Marvel at the shadows, what then actuality?
And we, too, are but a shadow of what we will become.
--JW, Dec 23, 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Together, Walking The Narrow Path



Photo: Courtesy of Matt & Rachel's Vanderpoel's blog, in post for Dec 17, 2009: "Life in Beni" in para "Walking to UCBC," see: http://sweetvanderpoel.wordpress.com/

From up above you would but see
A verdant, dense, un-trodden jungle,
Yet winding its way between the green,
We tread together this well-worn path.
Not broad, not always safe, narrow,
Yet, no narrow gate we see, no guide,
But song-birds accompany our way.

It can be dry and dusty, and sometimes
We encounter others, unlike us, going
The other way. They look quizzically,
What are ‘them’ doing here? For
Narrow roads, like this, lead often
Where others, like us, are not wont to go.
Yet we will go, where we are called.

Calling; we hear the song-birds
Calling out in love to each other.
Their song cheers our hearts,
As they break the silence of the forest.
But the call of the one who calls us,
Is far harder to distinguish, amidst
The bustling life of this jungle world.

And yet, we hold fast together,
Consult together, walk this narrow
Path, together, great comfort there.
And if some day the song-birds
Are all disturbed, flipping from
Tree to tree, cheeping with agitation,
Listen hard, they call to thee.

A Christmas Greeting dedicated to Matt & Rachel Sweet Vanderpoel, while spending an academic year in the DR Congo, knowing Matt's love of song-birds, and thinking also of Joachim Patinir's paintings of landscape, as an image of the pilgrimage of life, may this path leave its mark on you, as you leave your mark on it. – JW, Dec 21, 2009.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One from me: "Back Next Spring," Dec. 2009


Back Next Spring, 2009, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

"Back next Spring"

Now half-way through December,
Chilliest day since last February,
We are told. My mind heavy, slow,
Seeking oxygen, led me outdoors,
Over brittle, frost-chilled snow
To my woodland thinking stool.

Too cold to sit, I thought to pass,
When this little note from Nature,
Wafted down in last night's wind,
Tucked in tightly under the wire,
Beckoned my eye, stirred my mind.
Its message, "Back next Spring."
--JW, Dec. 15, 2009

Flickr's thierry tillier's "(((((((((( / ," 2009 //


(((((((((( / ,, originally uploaded by thierry tillier.

"What then 2010?"

Two thousand and nine
Sorrow, pain, grime -
What hope then
Two thousand and ten?
Maybe - something sublime!
--JW, Dec 15, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

John the Apostle at the Death of the Virgin



Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Death of the Virgin, c. 1564, grisaille, Upton House, Banbury, Oxfordshire, England, first owned by the famous Antwerp cartographer, and friend of Bruegel, Abraham Ortelius, and later owned by the Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens.



Philips Galle's 1574 engraving thereafter, published by Galle and Ortelius, jointly.


"John the Apostle at the Death of the Virgin"

Scholars for years have wondered about John,
As placed apart in the Virgin's bedroom, and
Not only apart, but asleep, when all others
So attentive around the bedside of Mary,
Virgin and mother of God Incarnate.
Mary, soon to depart, to rejoin her son,
Readied for her transition from this world
To the next, to throw off her mortal coil,
And be robed in immortality, by her own Son.
Why sleeps John, at such a moment?

Why sleeps John, indeed? Why John?
John, with his brother James, and Peter,
Disciples, the closest three to Jesus.
Among these three, John singled out,
In Christ's last earthly legacy, to John
He entrusted the care of his mother.
Was he, the care-giver, now worn out?
Relieved his burden to let go? Tired
Beyond the understanding of the others,
Who had not known his singular burden?

Peter, James, and John, these three,
Consider all they shared with Christ:
They alone did witness the raising of
Jarius's daughter, saw life restored
To a girl, already dead. They alone
Were witness to Christ's Transfiguration,
Glimpsing this man as also divine.
They alone remained as witnesses
To Christ's lone agony in the garden
of Gethsemane, time of deep rue.

How our Lord with his Father did struggle,
Beseeching Him, with sweat and blood,
Falling as teardrops from his agonized brow,
Resistant to his fate, imploring God
To let pass this bitter, but inevitable cup.
What did Peter, James, and John, his companions,
In this dark hour? With him watchful? No!
They all did fall asleep! And so it was again!
Mary, now, his special charge, in her last hour,
And John, he sleeps, or dreams of Patmos.

--John W, Dec 10, 2009,
having been taken by admired Bruegel,
to the Virgin's bedchamber, in the home of John,
leaving me wondering, am I sleeping, dreaming,
when I should be watchful?-Can we each see
ourselves as the exhausted, self-absorbed
companions of those closest to us, in their
time of need? And yet, what mercy, what grace,
for sleepy-head John was ever called, "the
disciple whom Jesus loved;" and to him was
entrusted, if tradition be correct, when on Patmos,
the most extraordinary of all visions that
man has ever had, the vision of end times
and eternity, as recorded in the Bible's
Book of Revelation, from the hand of John.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"A Silent Earthquake" - a phrase from John Steinbeck's "East of Eden," as recalled by my friend, musician Howie Whitaker.

"A silent earthquake"

When the first snow of winter falls upon the ground,
Like a soft blanket, it covers the year's tumult,
And a silent stillness falls upon the world.
Painted over with a snow-white purity,
All pains and scars are covered over,
And a serenity fills the still air. And yet -
It is cold inside, deep down inside,
As a chill sets into our souls and bones,
With a sadness for what has passed,
And the bleak prospect before us:
For some, just getting through winter;
For some, loneliness and heart ache,
Unrelieved by the warming rays of
Summer sun, splashing water,
Humming bees, nectar, and flowers
Dancing in the breeze. For yet others -
Alone in the crowd, going about one's day,
Carrying inside what few can know,
The tremors of a silent earthquake.
Thus, must each of us recall, indeed,
Once more the earth, it will be shaken.
Nothing we can build will stand, and yet -
And yet, our one and only, steadfast hope,
Faith, the Word of God endures for ever.
-- JW, for Howie Whitaker, Dec 8, 2009.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Heniusia, on Flickr, has done it again, with her extraordinary photograph, "A silent sigh"


A silent sigh, originally uploaded by Heniusia.

"One black crow"

Such pure, white light,
Fog and mist,
Tree branches
So delicate,
Barely enough
To support,
One black crow.
--JW, Dec 4, 2009.

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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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