The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am a retired art historian, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it attempted 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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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:

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.


  1. I have enjoyed your work in the Mosaic bible. It drew me to locate you and see if any of your works are available for purchase? In reading I see that they are generally done for your church worship service. Have you made them available in any other form? Thank you for your blending of old and new, bridging the generations. I live in London and constantly enjoy the amazing blend of art that is available for us, inspiring, encouraging, challenging.
    Kaye Martin

  2. I am sorry. I had no idea you had left this question on my blog, until I got spammed, and started going thru the few comments I attract.

    In short, I CAN make my work available for sale, but generally dont, simply because for me it is a creative not a commercial venture - just a form of delight, and the shipping hassle does not appeal to me!!! What purpose do you have in mind?

    John Walford


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John Walford

John Walford
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I am a British-born, retired art historian, who taught 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. 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 twelve 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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