On Being a Pheasant.
Once I flew, and crew,
Now I hang and ripen.
But, it gets yet worse,
For they will eat me too!
- JW, Dec 27, 2012
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.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Monday, December 17, 2012
Walford-Dellù - Forty Years On,
December 16, 2012
Separated by six years of war, sides, and more;
Separated by country, language, taste and culture;
Raised so differently, harsh town and country ease;
One faced so young into life’s severest challenges;
The other too long protected from its stormy blasts.
So separated, so different, so sure no chance to meet.
Who would have thought, could have guessed?
Who predicted that two such paths could cross?
Or in the crossing, either or anything be noticed?
Does even art, education, the thirst for knowledge
Usually bring two from so far, so close? Maybe!
But into a viable and lasting union – that’s rare!
Encounter! That’s a marvel! Attraction, a mystery!
In Amsterdam, famed ‘great arc of the refugees,’
There in Amsterdam, anything may seem possible!
In the sixties and seventies, there did pot abound,
And long-haired hippies by the shipload! – Us too!
But there was more to Amsterdam than hippies!
Young naval officer, in Nazi war-camp, finding faith,
Freed, returns home, studies, teaches theology and art.
Now there, in such miracle, a new story finds a start.
Drawn by whispers of ideas that set minds swimming,
Young disciples from odd places are thereto drawn,
And two young lives find fresh opening, just after dawn!
A chance encounter, after a long journey, breakfast
Bringing welcome renewal, warming body and soul.
Conversation that opens windows into seeking minds,
Finds concord, where concord unexpectedly resides.
God honors no divisions of class or culture! Truth shines
In radiant beauty, wherever it is received and cherished.
Forty years on! Yet two more countries later, together!
Children born, raised, loved and launched - released
To raise families of their own - From solitude, a tribe!
Many years of sharing stories, stories that give meaning
To the mystery of each couple’s path into deeper union,
Held together by some marvelous glue, the world calls love.
-- John Walford, for Maria Dellù, for forty December 16ths.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Tell me, now:
Shall He you bore,
--JW, for Ingrid Hedbavny, November 15, 2012
Once it was all anticipation, a slight seed.
We keenly watched it becoming, itself.
Tossed in the wind, in the heat of the sun,
Glorious in its ripeness. Then came the Fall.
Hard to observe, it stalks up on us all;
Yet, finally, it comes down to this.
-- JW, on bidding farewell to a long-time colleague, Nov 15, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
I walk this single, rutted path, alone.
Mist spares me seeing what awaits.
Trees and fences keep me on track,
Lest I would veer from my allotted path.
Dropping steeply before me,
It leads me.... I know not where.
-John Walford, for Boccacino, November 14, 2012,
with gratitude, and loving affection. Please see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/boccacino/8184460767/
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Salomon van Ruysdael (1600-1670) - River View with a Chuch and Ferry. Detail. 1649. Bequest of Abraham Bredius, 1946. From 28 April 2012, around 100 highlights from the Mauritshuis collection are on display at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, for a period of about two years.
This reminds me of the years I spent as a student of art history, living in Amsterdam. This is so beautifully photographed that it renders palpable all the best of what I remember of the landscapes of this generation of Dutch masters, and, I am ashamed to admit, it brings tears to my eyes - perhaps the feeling of not having seen - in such proximity - that which I came to love so deeply, for now too many years, living in The States. It brings back another world, which i long since left behind.
Friday, June 8, 2012
John Walford's "Déjà Vu" - with acknowledgements to Goya and ScottSantis (Chicago Tribune), June 2012 - small
Scott Santis's cartoon & the Royal Jubilee:
Scott Santis's cartoon in today's Chicago Tribune (June 8, 2012) draws effective attention to the long-standing, and dubious elevation of Speaker Michael Madigan to a de facto monarchical position within Illinois public life.
At the same time, in the context of Britain's Royal Jubilee celebrations, Santis's cartoon also calls to mind Goya's famous painting of "The Family of Charles IV of Spain," painted in 1800, as here blended in my own satirical, collaged appropriation.
The public euphoria that surrounded Britain's Jubilee celebrations makes me wonder: How is it that in today's open society, shimmering silks and satins on the royal women, and male chests laden with orders and medals, still has the power to draw out an instinct for public affirmation in the general populace? With the widespread demise of religion, has the nostalgic glamor of monarchy become the new 'opiate of the people?'
But is not such sentiment as dangerous a toxic to our civic flourishing as the unbridled power of the current Illinois House Speaker?
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
My Flickr contact, Actaeon, provided this image of mine with a wonderful quote from Pindar, which, roughly translated from Actaeon's French reads thus:
"Ephemeral beings, who are we then?
Man is the dream of a shadow,
But when the gods direct, a beam
Of shining light surrounds him,
And his existence becomes sweet as honey."
--Pindar, his conclusion to An Ode for an Olympic victor.
Also translated thus:
Creatures of a day! What is a man?
What is he not? A dream of a shadow
Is our mortal being. But when there comes to men
A gleam of splendour given of heaven,
Then rests on them a light of glory
And blessed are their days. (Pythian 8)
As given in French by Actaeon:
"êtres éphémères, qui sommes nous donc ?
l'homme est le rêve d'une ombre
mais quand les dieux dirigent sur lui un rayon
une lumière brillante l'environne
et son existence devient douce comme le miel"
Pindare pour un Olympionique
Flickr's Lamato Feliz's "Concurso de calles-Romería S.Isidro-Calle Barrio Perchél Alameda (Málaga) Año 2012".
Each one, diligent,
To his assigned role,
For on it, life depends.
--JW, for Lameato Feliz, May 17, 2012.
Friday, May 11, 2012
"Catch the Shadow"
I once was, as you now are,
Reaching up, to catch the shadow.
Always, like rainbow's end,
Out of reach, but worth the striving.
-- JW, dedicated to my artist-friend,
on the occasion of the opening
of his Self-Portrait/Apocalypse
exhibition, May 9th, 2012.
Seen at a Retrospective of Self-Portraits - mostly within other works - by Joel Sheesley from ca. 1970-2012. Note: The Shadow is of the artist, and is actually painted onto the wall, as well as overlapping [ie. painted onto] the etching of himself from 1972.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
"When A Sparrow Falls to The Ground, 2012"
Once but a warm yolk encased in a fragile shell, from Spring’s winds by wound twigs protected. Mother’s fluffy underside kept us all warm; Father faithfully fed Mom, until we too all shrieked like hell. Mom and Dad faithfully dropped wiggly worms in our wide-open beaks, until we learned to fly and feed. Pushed from the nest, and now out on our own, I soon found shelter from Winter winds, under the eaves of an old, blue-gray house, in company with others like me, my cousins. We bickered.
None of us ever strayed far from our abode. We had no need to, food and drink we easily found. And then we grew up, and discovered a liking for each other. Now I found myself collecting twigs, even bits of old plastic, which handily kept out the wind. Soon we had our own little brood – just as it had always been, since time immemorial – or so the old birds told us. But we were surely prouder of our brood than any before us, and I worked hard to keep the nest secure, predators at bay, the Missus fed, and, soon after, as our fresh eggs hatched out, we fed all those new squeaky beaks too. I would set out into our leafy neighborhood, flipping from driveways to lawns, and into the woods, finding the best of morsels, to bring proudly back to the nest.
It was always the same routine, breakfast, lunchtime and supper, and each little one always wanted to be fed first, and finish last, and none seemed ever contented that I brought home enough. The only form of gratitude that I received back was six sets of beaks, falling contentedly asleep. Then it happened, flying low, I swooped down lower than usual, deceived by new glass, not yet soiled by time, and thinking the path before me wide open, I hear this dreadful thud. My neck buckled in an instant, I fell on my back, and as the last breath passed from me, I wondered, what will the Missus think when I don’t ever return? And what will befall our baby sparrows?
- John Walford, witness to the end, May 5th, 2012.
Monday, April 30, 2012
"Potted Plants and Drying Baskets"
Not seen one of these in quite a time!
Once again, turns my mind to rhyme.
What is square, with what is round,
Plus rectangles, me does astound!
Colors all of the sky and earth,
All so palpable, of reality no dearth.
-- JW, for my good friend Jacob Schere, April 30th., 2012.
Monday, April 16, 2012
A friend asks: "But why the butterfly?" It's a fitting question and merits a full response, since this explains the Christian Easter liturgy:
Because a caterpillar, that creeps on the ground, goes into a chrysalis (dies as a caterpillar), and then reemerges as a butterfly, which flies in the sky. This has long been taken, in Christian tradition, as an image of the account of Christ, as recorded in the New Testament, and summarized in all the early Christian creeds, that are still recited by Christians universally, to this day, that "Christ was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell, and, on the third day, rose again from the dead, and ascended into heaven." (The Old Testament account of Jonah, swallowed by a whale, and spewed out, alive, on dry ground, three days later, is seen as a pre-figuring of the same process of death, descent into hell, and resurrection. This is why Jesus said to those who sought signs to prove that he was whom he claimed to be, said that no other sign would be given, than the sign of Jonah).
Now, as St. Paul writes, in one of his letters to the Churches, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then the hope of all Christians is in vain, and Christians, of all people, are most to be pitied, for the foundation of their hope is in vain, and they remain undelivered from both their sin, and from the lasting power of death. Paul's reasoning being that if Christ did not rise from the dead, then he was not who He said he was, the Son of God, but rather an impostor, and so rightly put to death, never to rise again.
Thus his death by crucifixion would not serve as a once-and-for-all-time sufficient sacrifice for sin, which would only be a sufficient sacrifice if he were God Incarnate in the flesh, and there would be no assurance that this sacrifice was acceptable to God, unless God Himself raised Christ from the dead, and then raised Him to glory, to sit at His right hand, as Christian Scripture proclaims, God the Father then also sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in the heart of all of humanity who believed in the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Therein lies the core of all Christian faith.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Seen side-by-side in Flickr's Canis Major's always interesting photostream, from England, these two tree images - the other being as previously posted on my blog, provide endless fodder for the imagination, the contrasts of life span and experience being so great.
Trees Without Branches: Forced Farming of Trees - The Vegetable Equivalent of Pigs, Cows, or Chickens
Excellent juxtaposition, and moving title. I am also struck, though, that even when living, these trees were being forced to live like crowded pigs, cattle, chickens - you name it - on a factory farm. Poor little trees, never allowed to experience the joy of having branches, which surely is part of being a tree, for a tree's life and flourishing, and so little light that it was a race to the top - ever upward, ever upward, not knowing that the fastest growers would be the first to succumb to the executioners axe.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
"Innocence Can Be Bliss"
Does the robin know on what s/he rests?
Has the robin tasted winter but once?
Has the robin yet faced the hard task
Of raising a family, and all that asks?
--JW, for Simon K, wishing you a blessed Easter, 2012!
This work, and Simon K's title for it, reminds me of an experience from years ago, when we were all in our twenties. I was at the bedside of the dying mother of a close friend, and she said to her two gathered children, and me, do not cry at my funeral, for I shall now be free, and singing like a bird. The funeral was on a dreary, wet, grey, November day, in England, and as we stood by the graveside, reciting the prayer of committal, the sun broke momentarily through the clouds, and a bird started singing and singing in the nearby yew tree. All three of us looked at each other, and as the hair tingled on our spines, a smile crossed all our faces.
Simon K's tender photograph brings all this to sweet remembrance. She was a lovely Christian lady, whose parents had been medical missionaries in China, at the turn of the last century. It is fitting to think of her again at Easter time.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Hate Has No Friends and No Rest, March 2012
Having so recently posted a couple of visual responses to the slaying in Florida of Trayvon Martin, now the news breaks from California of another premediated, deliberate hate crime against Shaima Al Awadhi, aged 32, a Muslim mother of five, who had immigrated from Iraq in 1993, in search of peace and freedom for her family (see the news clip here: youtu.be/RrnMYg62boM, which thanks to dou_ble_you [ www.flickr.com/photos/dou_ble_you/ ], for drawing this to my attention, this morning).
This is appalling, and unacceptable in a country that prides itself in protecting its citizens, respecting civil rights, and the freedom and liberty - also of religion - for all! Cancer may be the major killer in America, but hate seems at times not far behind - even here in the USA.
We all do well to remember that hate possesses but one living room and command center - the human heart. Until we cut it out of our hearts - individually and collectively - hate will always spring from our hearts into our words and actions.
Governments, schools, and religious institutions - of all stripes - can only do so much, by way of setting examples, defining and policing respect for the rule of law, teaching and inspiring, by example, but no institution can rule the human heart and will. What lies within will always find ways to break out on the street. Institutions can but restrain and discipline.
It is thus for each of us - individually and collectively - to examine our hearts and minds - and to root out all bigotry, hatred, and blindness to the nature of human flourishing, and to individually and collectively set our hearts, minds, and wills to pursue "shalom," until the bitter end, and the last breath.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
PUT YOUR CHILD'S FACE UNDER THIS HOODIE, AND PLEASE - IN GOD'S NAME - PLEASE ACT ACCORDINGLY! America's conscience is still too calloused, and racism yet simmers close to the surface. It must be torn from all our hearts - every last shred of it - otherwise we all deserve to be humiliated to the same degree that whites have humiliated blacks these past two hundred years, and more. IT'S MORE THAN ENOUGH! It's a shame on our claim to humanity, to dignity, to the innate value of each individual. And we talk of a free country! For many, yes! For black youth... ?
The Jewish holocaust is quickly and easily condemned, by almost unanimous consent. But what of the daily humiliation and personal insecurity of young blacks in America, and what of the suffering of all American families of color, who sense that they have to watch their backs wherever they walk, in whatever store they enter, and always watch whites watching them warily. And the justice system, what does it do? By default, it lets this shameful state of affairs go on, for, assuredly, there is too much else on their hands......
So look hard in this now-deceased boy's eyes, see the face and eyes of your child, or your sibling, under that hoodie instead, and in the name of God, Creator of us all, live a life of love, compassion, and mercy towards all! After all, that is how humanity is called to act, and it is not beyond us, if we summon the will and the resolve.
[My photo of the thoughtful, child ring-bearer, gratefully published with his parents permission].
WHOSE AT GROSSLY UNFAIR ADVANTAGE UNDER FLORIDA's "STAND YOUR GROUND LAW"? And what racial biases still have a lethal hold on our hearts?
Some reflections on the Florida slaying of Trayvon Martin:
I am departing from my usual practice at this blog in order to address a far more serious topic, touching the day-to-day well-being of a huge section of the US population, instanced by the dangerous, and likely biased application of a poorly defined law, the right to 'stand your ground' and to kill a person who you allege was a threat to your safety, with no witnesses to corroborate your claim.
If Trayvon Martin had been white, and George Zimmerman black, would the Florida police have been as reluctant to press charges? If either of them - Martin or Zimmerman - had walked into my classroom, I trust that I would have been delighted to welcome them as students. If either of them were to walk into my home, I trust they would receive a hearty, warm welcome. If either of them wanted to marry my daughter - were she still unmarried, - then I wonder how my thought patterns would have run..... and so should we all.
Until each of us can see the image of God in all of our fellow human beings, and indeed, as Carlos Fuentes wisely wrote, ("The Buried Mirror," 1992, p. 353), "if we do not recognize our humanity in others, we shall not recognize it in ourselves," the humanity of us all remains gravely diminished. Does this matter? Surely gravely so! Indeed, the consequences of our prejudices will continue to be acted out on the streets, in the classrooms, and in our homes, day after day, just as they have been for years past.
I openly admit that I grew up with every shape and form of bias and prejudice in my heart, until I learned to respect the power and the beauty, and the transformation of life that gradually grows from respect for the power of the most basic of Commandments, namely to love God with all our hearts, and, flowing therefrom, to love our neighbor as ourself. It is so basic, yet so challenging.
But, in the name of God, and his beloved creatures, the only way to do amends for the totally tragic slaying of Trayvon Martin, is for each of us, of whatever race, religion, or class, to embrace these fundamental human obligations with all of our hearts, our minds, our wills, and our bodies, and also to abjure the American obsession with the right to bear arms, and to use them, in such a cavalier, indiscriminate manner, free from prosecution.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
The gallery of curated images, gathered by Flickr's dou_ble_you is a wonderful testimony to creative intuition. His gallery is indeed an inspiring idea, and brilliantly conceived.... his right brain (as usual) functions marvelously, and the outcome, notwithstanding the process of assembly - or perhaps rather just because of it - does indeed manifest some common threads, for the attentive viewer. But, for me, it also introduces me to several works hitherto unseen by me, that are simply splendid to dwell on, and return to. Thank you so much, UU, for the creative intuition, and for the inclusion.
Friday, March 9, 2012
"A Lenten Zen-itation"
Now and 'Zen, I'll take a break,
From severity of Lenten think.
Hard for me, to see the snake,
In loss of virtue, so then I'll wink.
Zen quietens mind, that's good for me!
But don't cleanse my bad, habitually.
So I go, by turns, from Zen to Christ,
Best of both worlds, in this life.
-- JW, for UU, with a little bit of luv
for our friends, Lent, 2012!
Sunday, February 19, 2012
" Memories Matter"
Burnt, bent, crumpled, and torn,
Traces of history, here time-worn.
The detritus of yesterday
Speaks to us today,
Look hard, ponder deep,
What it can still say.
- JW, for Regorio/ Roger Kellison, February 19th, 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
When lived the world in heavy darkness,
Long waiting the Messiah in perpetuity,
Hopes faint, the wait beyond credulity,
Burst on Bethlehem a great Brightness.
When we, in shadow of our home,
See shadows cast by light, one alone,
Look to that One, single bright beam,
The greatest wonder ever to be seen.
-- John Walford, for John & Betty Gouch,
With affection, February 9th, 2012.
Photo: “Incarnational Candle,” 2011
© Walford Photography & Graphic Arts
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Fallen, we yet embrace,
As once in midst of life.
Oh! That it could be so,
For us mortals too!
--JW, for Bruilach/ Colin Campbell, many of whose works inspire the poetic imagination., In thanks, February 8th, 2012.
Speak not to me of what went wrong.
Recall not the long struggle to survive.
Make no mention of gusts too strong.
Nor the shame, only one came out alive.
Speak not to me of that battle for the oars,
Nor mention the mishandling of the tiller.
Responsibility for all was only yours,
Abandoned, my naked ribs expose the killer.
-- JW, for Bruiach/Colin Campbell, in appreciation for an ageless, yet haunting image., February 8th, 2012.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
"Glistening Diamonds for the Seeing"
The morning dew, scattered sparkling fresh,
Neglects not to alight on the humble dandelion.
Here finds its chance to do it's very best,
Voicing Creation's praise beyond Mount Zion.
--JW, for Martin LaBar, February 7th, 2012.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
"Atlantis Rises from the Sea"
I think the world just shrank.
I looked out to sea, and what did I see,
But high-rise buildings beyond the sea.
They must have been built incredibly high
To be seen, as here, between sea and sky.
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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.