"Trees, Lanes, and Fencing Posts"
Without technology, life I can hardly now imagine.
There's a succulent delight in colored, digital imaging!
Yet twenty-four drawings, in a distinct human hand,
Responding to landscape, under eye's command -
Trees, lanes, and fences, so easily passed bye,
In such drawings, calm solace, consolation does yet lie.
--JW, in honor of Martin Beek's poetic eye and hand,
Christmas 2010, and wishing you sustained effort through
2011, and long beyond.
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.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
"Trees, Lanes, and Fencing Posts"
There once was a time, when the girls were tough,
Out in the snow, some sleeveless, used to life rough.
No hot, running water, nor warm, central heating,
These girls could survive a cold snow-storm beating.
--JW, for paho47, Christmas, 2010.
With best wishes for 2011!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
"The Wandering Hieronymite"
There once was a Hieronymite, wandering the world,
Who started out decadent, although he’d been told
That prosperity awaited, if strictly diligent at school.
Having tried such a regimen, preferred to play the fool.
But the pleasures of folly no lasting peace did him afford,
So, in search of letters and learning he wandered abroad.
Long, hard study, mindful struggles did for folly atone,
And soon the young Hieronymite was no longer alone.
In course of such studies, did one Hieronymus come to light,
Whose strange visions of evil deeds did his imagination ignite.
The mind of that Tree-Man was seeped in weird, religious lore,
In which men swam in bird’s eggs, eating strawberries galore.
While one scrawny traveler, his lone journey undertook,
Sandro’s entranced Mercury, the wanderer’s plight forsook.
Old St. Jerome did indeed have his ardent penance to do,
But not without teaching that we, too, must turn old into new.
-- John Walford, December 19, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
John Walford, The Nativity, 2010 (Inspired and adapted from Gerard van Honthorst’s Nativity, 1622 (Wallraf_Richartz Museum, Koln), with thanks to each photographer for elements that contribute to this piece, for use of which all efforts have been made to obtain permission. My thanks also to Immanuel Presbyterian Church, whose 2010 Christmas lessons and carols service caused me to reflect on the significance of the ox and ass.
"The Nativity - A Fresh Look"
No misplaced marvel, incalculable wonder,
By science unexplained, and unexplainable!
A virgin birth, the boys in high school know,
Comes not ever into being, never so conceived.
A trick of language? A wicked rumor spread?
Or a matter of divine breaking of His own rules?
Who daily the world spins on its axis, made it so,
Each night, day follows, He deemed it thus to go.
This one child’s mother Virgin pure stayed she,
So we know, her son both flesh and divinity to be.
Of saccharine, smiling, nativity greetings cards
So soured am I! They lie, for surely it was not so!
Only the unknown, the outcast to a stable sent,
For richer folks, for inn space, their money spent.
Poor shepherds, out in the fields, tattered clothes,
Poor protection from the chill, were open to learn,
To heed wondrous words, that angels did disclose;
And what those richer folks did not dream or know,
Was put in the mind of an ass and ox to show.
--- John Walford, Christmas 2010, from a heart
overflowing with wonder and deep gratitude,
and wishing all family and friends likewise.
With our shared affection, John & Maria W.
Friday, December 3, 2010
How is it to be an orchid?
Earth's goodness, sky's light
Stored in strong and waxy leaves.
Proud stems lifting heads high,
And blooming out along the stem.
First to open, has some pride,
Until a second it overshadows.
Soon a third, and a fourth, more,
As the first already shrivels,
Leaving the last as first in sight.
First to catch the sunlight; first
To attract the humming bee;
First to draw the human eye,
Out front, first before the lens
That focuses on its succulent
Chamber of sensuous delights!
Last, now first! Sun-drenched,
Color drenched, saturated,
And drenched in attention -
Just like the last-born child.
-- JW, on the delight of orchids,
December 3, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
"Tomorrow More Than We Expect"
Night, we allow, it must be dark; its secrets hide
In deep shadows; none intrude, except by way
Of dream. Lone Paul so found her and did chide,
"Why lie you so sulking? Night is for play?"
Swimming seed may leave traces for the morrow,
But, by then, Paul will be elsewhere, brush in hand,
Some other South-Seas mermaid under command,
The first, fatter, cold, alone, abandoned, only sorrow.
Dare then UU write of sweet tomorrows, or only
That they hold more promise than we dare expect?
For how was today: drifting through time, so lonely,
Sleep our best escape, laughter lost to sad neglect.
Whence then came blind words like "faith," "promise,"
And "expect?" Expect what from whom, from where?
Promise whom? Where's trust? And faith - it's premise?
Like the wind, felt keenly, unseen, spirit of the sphere.
-- JW, for UU, on receiving a most welcome, and surprising, Pre-Raphaelitian gift!
American Thanksgiving weekend, Nov 27-28, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
"Each His or Her Own Secret"
Hers, for the taking, was beauty, glamour, wealth,
And fame, deceptive rewards such life delivered.
How many bored, and lonely housewives, trapped
As they thought, in domestic monotony, dreamed
That their lot had fallen like hers, all for the taking!
Her secret? Some promising features, hair dye,
Eye shadow, lip stick, a face lift, and dental floss.
What did she gain? The world’s attention – her loss.
His, through much heart searching, struggle, pain,
Unseen, unwatched, in the darkness of the night.
Alone, even amidst family and friends, in a battle
Fought in the soul – almost alone – but not quite so!
Unseen, guardian of the believer’s soul, in doubt,
Yet holds our head just above the raging waters;
For buried deep within the stony tissue of hearts,
A fount of living water flows yet unseen – our gain.
Fix your gaze on Carls-berg, consider its granite mass,
See from its side flow forth, first blood, then living water.
Choose well your hope – unfailing streams, or dental floss.
-- John Walford, for Carl Wilder, Thanksgiving, 2010.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
(This was a table centerpiece for a dinner party that took place more than a year ago. I just could not throw it away, and it finds a new setting among the fall leaves, still possessing a radiant, though faded beauty).
"Remembrance and Thanksgiving"
Will it be the same round of turkey, sweet potatoes,
And the feeling of excess - while others go short?
Will it be the same old family gathering, the same jokes?
And an undercurrent of covert digs, jest, and teasing?
Will we drink the same wines, in the same sequence?
Or could it be that this year's Thanksgiving will excel?
There is in truth so much for which to give thanks.
Two new grandchildren safely delivered to this world -
And both flourishing. Other grandchildren, also thriving.
Much for which to give thanks, and thanks we will give.
Even trials and sorrows have yielded to peace and joy,
Even cold darkness has yielded to the return of warm light.
Yes, we will give thanks; we will all give hearty thanks.
Be thankful for one another; for home and shelter,
For food and employment; yes, thanks for activity -
Activity that sometime strains the nerves, stresses
Out, and wears us down - yet for the gift of rest, for
Week-ends, and sleep, for restoration, we give thanks.
Thanksgiving calls for remembrance, and such is
Bitter-sweet. For so is all existence, like these flowers:
Once fresh and radiant, now dried and faded. Once
The centerpiece for a celebratory meal, now set aside -
But not yet abandoned for good - for still it offers itself
To the patient, thoughtful eye - as, indeed, do I!
--JW, Thanksgiving, November 2010,
my last before retirement from full-time teaching.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
"Longing, Pain, and Choices"
I was a young man, dreaming, and she a maiden,
But from different worlds we came. Our families
Spoke not to one another; would not, thought
They should not, for such was deemed improper.
The "proper" sort, well-bred, rich, I knew full well,
Smart in dress, empty heads, their ranks were swell.
I scoured these belles, but dull and empty, dry shells,
Never needed they to search, to strive, to think well.
What comes with ease, does, with ease displease.
When nothing can for granted be taken, or received,
The soul ripens, the mind grows strong, and, yes,
Fine character from such challenge is perceived.
Such treasure did I stumble on, in secret met,
Down in the woods, inside the hollow tree.
Two souls, for each other made, the glee!
And yet, my father said, she's not for me.
Which force the stronger be - love or family?
And where does loyalty owe its last allegiance?
How does a young man know to set his course?
When passion, instinct, with conformity clash?
Are our elders always wiser? Lived longer,
But by what star have they set their compass?
Are the young always so short-sighted?
Lived less, but what if they have seen the star?
That star, once shining in the East, wise men saw,
And followed to their destiny, with no regret.
And thus did I, have I, and will I, till I die,
And never once did know sustained regret.
--- JW, for Maria, thinking of August 1972.
(This grew out of memories of a work by Max Ernst, Vive l'amour (Le Pays Charmant), 1923, St Louis Art Mus, Miss. Ernst's painting depicts a couple enclosed by a tree-like structure, in a landscape, feint echoes of which underlie the image of this young couple.
With sincere thanks to Constance and Mercer S., for patiently modeling, also with their parents' consent.)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
"Die Blaue Blume"
It started with a seed, but how did the seed
Get started? How did the seed know its need?
A protective pod, to keep off what? Bees? Birds?
Rain for a season, and then a season for rain.
Some instinct to swell in warm, moist soil,
And the desire to push down deep roots,
Down into rich, moist soil, down into darkness,
Bending round rocks, and avoiding worms.
Once dug down, and rooted, ready to go;
Ready to reach up to the light again.
Breaking ground, now sensing sunlight,
Risking a little green shoot, thrust air-born.
How wonderful the freedom, to rise up,
And sway in the spring winds, growing stronger.
Arms and legs put on some muscle, and extend,
Pushing forth buds, bulging with promised bloom.
Bloom, bloem, luxuriant flower of the dawn,
Twine your sinuous tendrils around a trellis,
Cling for your life, open your blue canopy,
And there you have it – full-fledged, fragrant --
In all its fresh, resplendent morning glory:
Die blaue blume – bleu, blue, and blooming!
Bursting from its curving, dancing, sappy stem,
Nodding its jolly face towards the light of life.
What inner force turns her face to the sun?
What force opens her blue, curving canopy?
What imagination forges a floral umbrella –
With delicate, frilled edges, so feminine, so frail?
Who wound blue threads so succulently soft,
On such a slender frame? Who its pliant stem?
And then… who cares to walk around behind,
Allured by light, filtered blue, blu, bleu, blaue?
- It turned around, and bloomed for you!
-- John Walford, for Jan Laurens Siesling, Nov 7, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
"Tempus Omnia Terminat"
Here lies, here lies, lies who?
Jonathan Edwards, you say!
Yet who pays attention -
Anymore? Markers of
Mortality, rows of carved stone
Once lovingly placed, now -
perhaps - a perch for a bird.
Better to plant young trees,
Than grave, grave stones.
- JW, for Matt Milliner, Oct 28, 2010.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
"Dried Petals with Red Wool Caught on a Twig"
Heat ravished, sap drained,
Shriveled and crinkled - and yet -
When flowers and leaves their
Season served, eyes nourished,
Must we then simply let them go?
Squirrels drop empty walnut shells;
An acorn of two, gone un-foraged,
A second life they can yet live.
Let them sit, these seasoned beauties,
Stiffening with age, fragile as can be.
Why do they have to perish? The eye
They yet delight, and now our mind.
The earth, like our body, may groan,
As it awaits a fuller, freer, brighter day.
One red strand of wool, caught on a twig,
Of Easter speaks, and new hope in May.
--First version dedicated to Mark Noll,
long-time friend, scholar,
poet, teacher, nurturer of all-comers,
and esteemed former colleague,
-- JW, August 14, 2010.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Thirty-Three to One.
Thirty-three little blue faces turn
To catch the rays of the unseen sun.
One grey dish it's face too does turn
Towards unseen beams, airwaves
Bearing from afar sights and sounds
That in turn make our heads turn.
And your head, your eyes, which way
Will you turn, and what will you absorb?
--JW, for Jacob Schere, October 24, 2010.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
"The Promise of Dawn"
Wide and nuanced tonal range, black to white,
Modulated with subtle silken transitions, by shapes
Speaking of crops, trees, houses, and hillsides,
Subdued under a soft dawn mist,
For this viewer, this Friday, of this week,
No further clarity desired. Softly soothing,
With such finely modulated, downy forms
To caress my strained eyes and weary mind,
I can go now to rest, in peace, a mediated
Normandy dawn, like a soft blanket,
Enveloping my weary soul,
A solace to be welcomed
Like a night of peaceful sleep,
Promising a tranquil dawn.
-JW, for Donald Verry, with appreciation,
Oct 8. 2010.
Monday, August 16, 2010
"His and Hers"
Two boats - his and hers -
Waiting patiently, riding anchor,
Hoping soon to show their stuff.
Not made to sit and chafe
Against the waves,
Tethered to the seabed.
Come, set my sails, they cry,
Take me into the wind,
Ride the waves in me,
And perhaps we shall
Meet again, invigorated
In some quiet cove.
--JW, for Heni, August 16, 2010.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
This time, I felt the urge to write a few lines on one of my own pieces, my "Salvador Mundi Still Life," made today:
"Little Bits of This and That"
My grandfather was a hoarder
Of little pieces of string,
Not much good for anything -
And so labeled. My father
Was his father's son, and hence
One day this I found: A row of
Dud light-bulbs, carefully labeled:
"Dud globes." One might ask why?
I am my father's son, ask you why?
For I, too, cannot part with things.
When flowers and leaves their
Time have served, beauty given,
Still then I cannot let them go.
Squirrels drop empty walnut shells;
An acorn of two, they go un-foraged,
And so find their way to my office shelf.
There they sit, with leaves and flowers,
Stiffening with age, fragile as can be.
Why do they have to perish? My eye
They yet delight, and now my mind.
The earth, like my body, may groan,
As it awaits a fuller, freer, brighter day.
One red strand of wool, caught on a twig,
Of Easter speaks, and new hope in May.
----Dedicated to Mark Noll,
long-time friend, scholar,
poet, teacher, nurturer of all-comers,
and esteemed former colleague,
-- JW, August 14, 2010.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Contemporary American Art
Whatever happened to the world of visual art?
Once familiar, we knew what art was – or thought we did.
People went to the museum, expecting to find,
Fine statuary, pristine paintings, and intimate prints,
Leading the eye through beauty, truth, and goodness.
Oh! My goodness! What have we there, and why is it here?
Apollo, long since consigned to storage, and the Virgin Mary,
Shows up now, caked in elephant dung. The Crucifixion
Dropped in a tank filled with three gallons of urine – and
I am supposed to introduce students to this weird world?!
Better read up on all the latest trends, for students don’t want
To learn art from some fuddy-duddy, European, chauvinist pig.
One Erica Doss has put it well together, in a fast-moving text
On twentieth-century, American art – Oh! Forget the Europeans!
Cracking it open, I slowly make my way through chapters on a
“Gilded Age,” Early Modernism, Avant-Garde experimentation,
Inter-war years, art and the New Deal, and the grand triumph
Of Abstract Expressionism. New York outshines Paris, and
After war, all the money and the glitter floats to these shores.
Triumph of the Americans! But built on European foundations.
All seemed to be plain sailing, in the moneyed, bourgeois ‘fifties,
But then comes the ‘sixties, riots, Vietnam, and Civil Rights;
Clement Greenberg keeps it esoteric, in a formalist vein,
But the young hippies, disenfranchised, are quick to lash back.
They wont serve the moneyed class, nor be cowed by Clement’s rule,
But break out as Dadists, Pop artists, and then go Conceptual.
Oh my! What a radical transition from perception to conception,
And now the art world will no longer be quite the same.
Doss tells me to hang up my art eyes, for I wont be needing them,
Instead read from political- and social science all you need to know.
Feminists and Blacks climb onto their soap boxes, quickly followed
By every stripe of oppressed minorities: Lesbians, gays, bisexuals,
Transgendered, Chicanos, Asians, American Indians, and more!
Each has smoldering, legitimate grudges, feel pushed into corners,
Or swept under the rug. Now the full force of their venom surges forth,
Directed, with self-righteous anger, against the cringing WASP elite.
Through the eighties and nineties “culture wars” consume the arts,
And museums become battle-grounds for the politically-correct.
Now why am I preparing art students to engage the visual arts,
When art--so politically-engaged—offers little lure to the eye.
I come now to this book’s final chapter: Contemporary Art.
I sharpen my pencil, slurp down some tea, and in I dive.
Woops! Was that water my head hit, or rocky shoals?
I surface, head aching, and gasping for breath. Lets take
A sampler, lest oil-field pollution has dirtied these waters too.
First scanning the illustrations, it’s all ideas they illustrate,
Word-patterns, not images, jump out at my shocked senses:
Difference, marginalization, hybridity, identity politics, ethnicity,
Talk of negotiating race, gender, and sexuality – all possible forms,
Without one trace of texture, line, rhythm, color, or form.
Self-identity, cultural-identity, national-identity are all identified,
Along with questions of America as ‘melting pot’ or ‘tossed salad.’
Museums are called to task for their covert operations, designed
To preserve the prejudices of privileged, white males, while banishing
All others to the ghettos of invisibility. See here the white man’s plot,
Colonialist, Imperialist, acting with cultural blinders, all awhile
Believing that culture rests in the guise of Apollo and the Virgin.
Perhaps in ‘Black History Month’ they will throw a bone to the outcast,
After all, it can only help them raise funds from some other source.
Post-structural, and conceptual, it’s only PC to now give others a turn.
Abjection and the body is now all the mode: the body abject,
Fragmented, lacerated, excreting, or flayed, by one cast in soap and
Chocolate, to be licked and bitten, chewed up, and spat out; another
Offering menstrual fluids, semen, and stained bed-sheets, all as a way
Of calling attention to aspects of human physicality, vulnerability, and
Repression – to say nothing of battles against essentialism, and
Exclusion, for its time for the museumgoer to face suppressed reality:
Not all like their sex with those of different gender, and none agree
What it means to be a woman or a man, or something in between.
Seems many artists find themselves hybrid of one kind or another.
Flipping through the pages, my eyes keep on seeing such phrases:
The body, gendered identity, him in high heels, naked, disaffection;
AIDS, controversy, cultural malaise, raw and aggressive, salvaging
The flotsam and jetsam of American culture. Syncretic identity,
Difference, injustice; the ‘prejudices of art materials,’ Net art,
Piccaninnies, ‘coon art,’ Jim Crow laws, black degradation – all
To be wrung out in the spaces of the Whitney Biennials, and, if
Fortune smiles, in the American pavilion at the Venice Biennial.
Art, it seems, has always been wrapped up in cultural ideology,
But it once used to be a visual art, where eye trumped concept.
E. John Walford August 9, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
This remarkable portrait, by Jon Guido Bertelli, of a 100-year-old Mexican revolutionary, posted to Flickr by dou_ble_you, who there refers to the story behind it, see: http://www.foto8.com/new/online/photo-stories/1200-zapatistas , provides so much food for reflection.
Here are the beginnings of mine:
These are a people cut from another cloth,
Forged by an endurance, few of us know,
Sustained by a vision, few of us grasp -
A testament to courage, few can match.
Who once sat in the rocking chair?
What plans were concocted? What happened?
What of the objects piled on the table? - Besides,
What did a portrait on a rough wall inspire?
JW, July 24, 2010, with thanks to dou_ble_you for posting this remarkable photograph.
Light and incense,
Facing their Lord.
What more to say?
Still, calm, devout,
Holding a vision of life
Most cannot grasp-
For Faith intangible.
To Brother Lawrence, O.P., with best wishes, as you now serve the Diaconate, John Walford, July 24, 2010.
"Vessels of Illumination"
Somerset cider in a cheap pub glass,
Set on a disposable beer mat,
On a rustic table, where woodworm
Have long since had their fill - and left.
Much like us! Hands, eyes, tongue, and feet,
Attached to a disposable corpus,
In a soiled city, where dogs, cats, and rats
have long since had their fill - and left.
Yet let one added element break through:
Lux divina! Effervescent bubbles catch its
Glowing rays, and radiate, spreading joy
Yet further, light from the rim of a plain vessel.
--JW, for Brother Lawrence Lew, of Blackfriars Priory, Oxford,
and originally Kuala Lumpur, on the occasion of
his ordination to the diaconate, July 24, 2010.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
"Balancing Complimentary Elements "
When a person has the eye,
Well trained to discern,
The patience to observe,
And wait their time - What happens!?
What seen? Who wants to capture it?
A couple stroll into the field of vision,
As well as into the reflected field.
Shapes line up, point and balance,
Light sharpens and suffuses,
Color reaches its fitting pitch.
Smooth, checkered, reflected,
Set on dynamic diagonals,
Paving stones, sheets of glass,
Perforated curtain walls,
Floating masses, techo wonders.
The organic, played off the geometric,
And Steve is there, at half past eight.
- JW, for Steve/half past eight, July 21, 2010.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
"Five Windows, Two Pipes, and a Vent"
One, well-painted, beige wall,
Seven outlets, yet no ingress,
Testimonies to hidden interiors,
Whose secrets remain unknown.
Forever veiled behind this wall,
Its windows, barred, screened,
One strangely whitened - Why?
Two banded chocolate brown.
You can wash upstairs, but maybe
Must go down for bowel relief.
Two pipes tell us so. The only
Way--in or out--the phone line.
Who painted those window bands
So neatly? What passes down that
Phone line? The words of lovers?
Or calls of one who likes grasses?
--JW, another to honor the chaste compositions of twisty331 (Jacob Schere),
July 17, 2010.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
"The Tussle between Nature & Culture"
What man makes is straight and sheer,
Submits to measure, 3-3-1, lines full clear.
Manu-facture now means machines,
That press, and cut - it's all so Schere.
A Creator-God does differently:
All lines have curve, none quite the same,
Species more than man can name,
In orange, purple, blue, and red.
Held up on stems, all twisty, bend;
Throw out sun-panels to catch
The rays and rains send down. -
But time and frost, He too does send.
From birth to grave, there is this dance,
Like plants that twine around man's struts.
Interdependent, they lunge and lance,
As Jacob, with the angel, bends and butts.
--John Walford, for Jacob Schere/twisty331, July 8, 2010,
a salute for your scrupulous eye.
Monday, June 21, 2010
"At the Sign of the Pineapple"
There, in the shadows of the peach blossom,
We had agreed to meet. Our secret garden,
So well hid, none shall find us there. But here
We find each other, can ourselves unburden.
There is this scented bower, still and quiet,
But for the soft humming of the bees, gathering
Nectar from the sweet blooms. Oft a bird will visit,
Sing for us, among the branches, above our heads.
Water trickles from pool to pool, its path meandering,
Like our evenings, slowly slinking round the rocks.
There some water lilies, a leaping frog, willows
Drooping low over the waters, whence they drink.
With anticipation, feasting my senses, I wait for her.
She, tender as a nightingale, porcelain skin, eyes
Like two moons, framed by dark, flowing tresses.
Then, onto the bridge she steps, lantern in hand.
- For my Maria, more loving than any woman known to me,
whose company is warm, and tender, like a secret garden,
scented with cherry blossoms, June 21st, 2010.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
"Beile's Breakfast-time Flower Dance"
Fences –markers of separation –
Separating yours, theirs, and mine.
But what’s to do with such a sight
Dancing in the morning breeze?
Reaching to fill the breakfast kettle,
My eye strays over my neighbors yard.
I tell myself, no, not covetousness; it’s joy!
Each does toil, work the soil, for sheer delight.
But what’s to do? - Yards away, then the fence.
That fence, a defense, against straying eyes?
A long, wet spring, now these! Yet over there!
I want to see, from where they see. Do I dare?
I skirt the fence, and then I’m there, down low.
They dance in the sunlight, before adoring eyes.
Fried eggs fluttering in the breeze, so frail,
The morning lights bleed through their whites.
--John Walford, for Bill and Meg Beile,
with much affection, June 13, 2010
"The Water of Life"
In course of many years
To this same spot returned
And still the water flows,
As it has flowed since when?
Cast eyes around, above,
There is but massive rock.
Whence comes this water?
None can see, nor fathom.
Snow, rain and ice, they fall,
Gathered in secret cavern.
Whom struck the rock,
At this point in the hill?
Yet this we see, is sure:
All below, on this source
Counts, and has counted
For years untold, no end.
Effulgent, shimmering greens,
In every, varied, mountain shade -
From tree-loads of conifer needles
To pastures rich with grassy blade.
Each does drink deeply from this
Same well, unseen, unspent -
Ever present, if iced in winter,
Sparse towards late summer.
Each drinks their fill, and flourishes.
A draught so cold, it chills the core;
So sweet it licks our lips. And yet,
At times, bitter draught, whence came?
And so this life-water flows: Cold,
Quenching, sweet and bitter, a
Carlsberg gift divine. None Wilder,
None more sure, to slake our thirst.
Written for Carl Wilder, and dedicated to all Wilders,
wild or tamed, with wonder, John Walford, June 2010.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
How Fantasy Is Projected
Left: Hiram Powers, Ginevra (tragic character from English poet, Samuel Rogers' 1822 poem, "Italy"), sculpted by Powers, 1865-8. Marble. The Art Institute, Chicago. Photo: John Walford, 2010.
Right: H. C. Westermann, Angry Young Machine, 1959. The Art Institute, Chicago. Photo: John Walford, 2010.
Comment: As I was looking for fresh material for classroom teaching, in viewing these two sculptures on the same day, I was struck by the aesthetic, emotional, and conceptual distance between them.
They were made almost exactly one hundred years apart. The one, to my eye, tenderly, unequivocally feminine; the other somewhat androgynous, bulbous, yet also brashly masculine; the one, serious, subdued and subtle; the other, brazen, humorous, and forthright. Yet both exude something characteristic of their respective era's sensibilities about gender: the former idealized, soft, and sentimentalized; the latter impersonal, yet human, aggressive, mechanized, and blunt.
Yet I doubt people have changed that much in one hundred years. What has changed is how we project our fantasies.
Friday, June 11, 2010
"Speak Words To Sight?"
Would words detract from sight?
Distract from vision's eye-delight?
Music, me thinks, more fitting be,
To echo these rhythms, in harmony.
The score I hear, feint in my ear,
Starts slow, and sombre, stark, severe.
Bum, bum, be-bum, bum, bum be-bum,
Heavy, melancholic, unyielding, mellow.
Stillness, they hold their bows, a moment.
The conductor lifts his arms once more,
Violins enter, then flutes, and piccolo,
Out of the mists emerge, tall, slender firs,
And full, fruity oaks, deep and resonant.
High and shrill, rumbling and rising,
Sight and sound, not word and image,
In one accord - brim brim, diddly brim bim -
Soft/sharp, slow/ fast, backed by bassoons,
A line of trees rising from the mellow, yellow mist.
- For Algo/ Alex,
In honor of a photostream,
Full of landscapes without peer,
If there was one dud,
I did not see it here.
--John Walford, June 11, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
They all come forward in a steady stream
- Or nearly all. Some sit it out, unsure,
Reluctant, quizzical observers, their doubt
Stronger than their faith, still trapped by guilt,
Unable to believe in such a gift - yet watching.
Watching the steady stream flow forward.
I too am watching, waiting my turn. My eyes
Follow the trail of familiar faces. Each body
A complex bundle of confusion and clarity.
Some come forward, bearing old burdens;
One knowing a new tumor has erupted inside,
Another, long lame, walking without a stick!
The widower, looking frailer than a year ago;
The young boy, blooming with freshness,
Not yet tarnished by a wider awareness.
Two sisters, tenderly steadying grandma.
One little boy, delightfully mischievous,
Until steadied down by his adoring dad.
One, home sold after how many years,
Dependent now on community living.
This other, so bright, always enchanting
The children, who sit as she tells stories.
There a man from out of town - someone's
Brother - still tethered to his surgeon's beeper.
And so it goes, each first Sunday of the month:
We all file forward - or nearly all --
Fat and thin, rich and poor, young and old,
One bounding, one limping, all expecting
That somehow, sharing from one sufficient loaf,
Together, we are all nourished, in communion.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
One little cardinal
So resplendent can be.
How feels the sparrow,
Living next to thee?
--JW, for Tom Wicker, June 2, 2010.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Some Reflections on Museum Goers, and Museum Visits, as a Ritual of Today's Urban- and Suburbanite.
Museum Atriums are engaging places for people watching, and a good diversion after absorbing too much art over a long morning. This piece resulted from a visit to the Modern Wing (designed by Renzo Piano) of the Art Institute, Chicago, May 29, 2010.
As I run my eye back and forth along the spectrum of people seen here, I ask myself, "what does each anticipate experiencing, in visiting the Art Institute, Chicago, or other such art museum?," and "what do they actually experience, and carry away with them - apart from some postcard, trinket from the gift shop, or other such souvenir of their visit?"
Then I might wonder, "What do I anticipate gleaning from a visit to the Art Institute?" and "What do I actually take away with me, or rather, in me?"
Furthermore, I wonder about the spectrum of capacity to take in some of what is on offer, and what percentage of visitors engage - or are effectively able to engage - much to be found in the beautifully designed, and well-stocked Modern Wing?"
So then, as you cast your eye along this varied group of people, try asking yourself what might be in their minds, as they pass by the observing spectator, ready with camera in hand. Furthermore, at times when you have been in their shoes, but perhaps elsewhere, what have you carried away with you, in your eyes, mind, memory, and whole being? What, indeed do you anticipate, and actually then glean, from such a museum visit? Or, is museum-going more like a ritual that one performs, as part of living in a mostly-urban environment, in which such visits are part of life's routines, from early school days, onward. What then does the ritual accomplish?
Finally, you might want to turn the question on me, and ask: "what did I take away from the Art Institute on this occasion, besides this and the four or five photographs below it? " - As well as impressions of the legion of art works that I photographed, but do not post anywhere on the Internet.
Maybe my delight in the design of the the Modern Wing stands out as always one of the most lasting, positive impressions - besides the repeated stimulus offered by original works of art, with all their subtly of color and texture, the palpable quality of different materials, both two- and three-dimensional, and the way light plays over them, bringing out their color and texture, highlighting some elements, relegating other aspects to shadow, and so many other qualities that no reproduction can come close to emulating or evoking.
I am also struck that every time I visit the Art Institute, which is many, many times a year, each visit intersects with a different range of current experiences, thought processes, moments in teaching, questions that have been posed, books and articles read, and so forth, so that on each visit I bring to the works on display a different set of questions, a fresh set of awareness, new issues that are engaging me, a new photo-series I am working on. All these elements affect what I choose to look at, and how I see them, so that the Art Institute is for me a cornucopia of never-to-be-exhausted resources, that can be quarried and mined ever over again, always with new and unexpected outcomes.
It is the intersection between what we bring, on any given day, and what the museum has on display, also with its ever-changing exhibitions, that makes such a museum a resource that an attentive viewer cannot possibly exhaust in a lifetime. Though I live in the suburbs, one of the advantages of reaching 65 is that with any free time that I may have, I can hop on the train, for free, and be there, in front of such richly-stimulating works, for as long as my endurance holds out. Then, when exhausted, one can cross the bridge into Millennium Park, and watch all the people, totally self-absorbed, gazing at themselves and their accompanying loved ones in the beloved "Bean," that shiny, 110-ton, elliptical sculpture, properly known as Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate, completed 2005 .
Herewith two of my recent photographs of people delighting in Kapoor's Cloud Gate, and their own, ephemeral presence, reflected on its shiny surfaces:
As well as the delightful visual play on the surfaces of Kapoor's Cloud Gate ["The Bean"], what a privilege it is, to have an Institution, such as Chicago's Art Institute, curate and display all these other works of art, in such a space, and all done so well, for all of us, should we so choose, to walk in and study, absorb, and retain in memory - to feed on, wherever we then find ourselves, and however many years later.
Some forty-eight years ago, I first saw the works of Rubens in the Louvre in Paris (such as the Adoration of the Kings, painted 1626/7, and the massive Marie de Medici cycle, painted 1622-24, see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de'_Medici_cycle ). The impact of their seemingly freshly-painted figures, though in fact done over three hundred years earlier, remain with me to this day, and still inform my perception of reality, and my realization of the power of visual art.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
"The Rhythms of Dancing Light"
A raking evening light,
Some trapped in its path
By freshly mown grass,
Writing bands of yellow,
Green, and gray, across
The hilltop, making hay.
--JW, for torbakhopper, 5/7/10
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I’m mad-igain! I’m mad-igain!
It’s called Midwestern values;
It passes for democracy,
Better say hypocrisy.
Dumb high-school grad:
Just call Michael Mad-igan.
Citizens of Illinois:
Think you’ll get some justice?
Now there’s a joke, it’s way too thorny!
Just think who’s States Attorney!
Yes, we’re caught again, it’s Madigan,
Daughter of admissions-man Madigan.
The Greek in me,
In State politics,
For one honest man,
We search in vain.
- E. John Walford, Wheaton, May 6, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
"May sun shine on your path, and wind be always on your back"
I sit and grieve,
Know not what to say,
Ahmad is going away.
Why should we mourn?
Lisbon or Vancouver:
Isn't it much the same,
For us your Flickr friends,
Where space dissolves.
Why should we grieve this way?
But we know the wrench
Of such a move, the hard
Goodbye, lives left behind,
Your little Pedrom........
And we know the draw,
Each heart does need,
Their own Graca -and to
Her arms and love -
We commit you - our friend.
May the sun shine on this great change,
removed, once more, from the soil you love,
and may peace fill your courageous heart.
In friendship, John W, Feb 27, 2010.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
"Vancouver Olympian Left-behind"
Somewhere, quite near,
A cheering crowd.
Lights are shining,
Speakers blaring names;
For the next heat -
But as they compete,
And people cheer,
Others, so near,
Know no cheer,
Hear no cheer,
Not even worth
Being towed away.
Behind the scene,
The bigger scene-
To Ahmad, whose artistic sensitivity for the underside of life, the downtrodden, the excluded quietly softens our calloused hearts.
In gratitude, John, February 21, 2010.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
"A shot of UU tonic"
When inspiration runs quite dry
Here is what you do:
Cook up some stodgy stuff -
Like this -
And send to dou_ble_you.
Then you so sure can be
That where grass you see,
In fact is sand, and what?
Olympian artists, slinky dames,
And somewhere there,
Laughing, a cross-legged guru.
--JW, for UU, Feb 6, 2010, with thanks for stoking the creative juices, once again.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Joonhee Park's "Forest," Hansen Gallery, Wheaton College, 2010 (a photo-interpretation of his New Media, video installation)
Edge of Joonhee Park's "Forest'" 2010 (a micro, photo-interpretation of Joonhee Park's New Media, video, light installation "Forest"), originally uploaded by johnwalford.
"Cheesecloth, light, and video"
As we pass through the halls
Of our daily work routine,
Where do thoughts carry us?
Customers, clients, dentist's drills,
People browsing in our store,
The stock ticker, a young waitress.
Not here! I pass along this hall,
On my way from teaching class,
Encounter open door, white space,
hanging cheesecloth, and light-
Delicate, flickering light, looping -
Passing by soon-enchanted eyes.
Hints of woodland, turning tress,
A leafy forest floor, glimpsed,
As if in passing, yet arresting
The eye, it draws me through
This gridded web of cheesecloth,
Penetrating deeper, where to turn?
I pull back a fold, and pass inside.
Light beckons me to turn, and see
Dancing before my eyes, patterns
Of green, yellow, blue and brown,
Passing swiftly, yet all awhile
Alighting on a gauzy mesh of fabric.
I see a child slip behind this vibrant veil,
See not who, but sense they see too,
Seen and not seen, close yet apart,
Separated by a gossamer thin screen,
We eye each other, as colored light
Plays across our veiled visages.
Then, penetrating yet deeper, now
Entering some silent sacred space,
I turn, glance, stand in raptured awe,
As two deer enter, pause, stare, pass -
Before my eyes and mind can grasp
That I am standing just outside Eden.
--JW, dedicated, with deep gratitude, to my colleague, Joonhee Park, who conjured this vision, invited me in, and refreshed my soul, Jan 30, 2010
Friday, January 1, 2010
"With the Sun and the Wind as our Strength"
The mill has its eye on the rising sun. So should we!
The mill turns to the swoosh of the spirited wind. So should we!
The mill stands on firm foundations. So should we! --
Anchored to the earth, for there we find our bearings.
May the wind fill your sails all year, and the sunrise
Impregnate the sensor in the deep crevice of your camera!
--JW, for algo, whose work I love, Jan 1st 2010!
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- My own "Each His or Her Own Secret, 2010"
- My own "Remembrance & Thanksgiving," 2010
- My own "Longing, Pain, and Choices," 2010
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- Beile's Breakfast-time Flower Dance II, 2010
- The Source: La Thuile, Italy, 2007
- She Was Left Wondering, 2010
- Flickr's Algo's "light the dawn" (March 1, 2010)
- The Start of A Long Adventure, 2007
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- John Walford
- 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.