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, June 21, 2010

John Walford, Nocturne - Geisha in her Garden, 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.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flickr's Hurith's "Nothing of Nothing Remains"


Nothing of Nothing Remains, originally uploaded by Hurith.

"And yet......"

"Nothing, of nothing, remains,"
Writes, translates, speaks forth
Fernando Pessoa / Ricardo Reis.
Medieval fortress, long preserved,
Tombstones, raised against time,
A brave striving, to hold off oblivion.

"Postponed corpses that procreate,"
Thereafter but to pad earth once trod.
If but that, why bear the yearly hassles?
Why not terminate, less years, less tears?
Ah! But hope for resurrection, we do dare
To believe, casts all sorrow aside, endures.
--JW, for Hurith, June 18, 2010.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Flickr's Lensk's "There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery." ~Joseph Conrad

"Shrouded in Dim Moonlight"

Why stands this woman here at night?
Alone, beside this isolated shed. Not
Fully abandoned, for repairs were made -
Yet never painted! She, lady of the night,
Drawn by the florid meadows, she could
Have come by day, but why at night?

Police report: She was never seen again.
Who saw her last, under that shrouded moon?
Was it he, who had made the rendez-vous?
He, whom she had met earlier in the bar,
Close to the gates of Magdalene College,
A camera slung over his right shoulder.

(I don't know about Joseph Conrad's take on moonlight,
but, so shrouded here, this is what it feels like to me.
--JW, for Paulo, June 15, 2010.

Flickr's Heniusia's "Memory and desire..."


Memory and desire..., originally uploaded by Heniusia.

"Loss"

One empty chair - not two;
Nothing on the table,
Where once we shared.
Seen now through a screen
Of nature's tears - leaving
Memories, and dulled desire.
--JW, for Heni, June 15, 2010.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Beile's Breakfast-time Flower Dance II, 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 Source: La Thuile, Italy, 2007

"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

She Was Left Wondering, 2010


She Was Left Wondering, 2010, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

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

Flickr's Algo's "light the dawn" (March 1, 2010)


light the dawn, originally uploaded by algo.



"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

The Start of A Long Adventure, 2007

"Bats and Spiders - Move Over"

Where bat and spider dwell secure,
The brave of heart see something more.
A place to fill with human voice,
A home, a place to live by choice.
--JW, 8/11/07

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Two Simple Elements That Bind

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

Flickr's Tom Wicker's "Cardinal Clouds," May 30, 2010


Cardinal Clouds, originally uploaded by Tom Wicker.

"Mobile Radiance"

One little cardinal
So resplendent can be.
How feels the sparrow,
Living next to thee?
--JW, for Tom Wicker, June 2, 2010.

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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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