Who Is This Child?

15 08 2010


I vaguely remember her. And her dog Puddles. I didn’t remember the naked doll until I saw it again. But those saddle shoes? I’d remember them anywhere. They’re the ones she was wearing when she stepped on a rusty safety pin. When they had to pull the safety pin out of the sole of the shoe so they could take her to the doctor to have a tetanus shot. It would have been easier if she had been barefoot, the way she always wanted to be.

Me. Forgotten memories. The photos bring some of them back. The photos that ended up in my virtual lap one day. The photos that were carelessly recorded by a brother discarded. Can’t I ever get rid of him?


What if I had let go? They would have blamed me — just like they always did. I was the oldest, the most responsible, the one who knew better. Still am. Still do.


But it only took “this” long to be slammed back in time. The photos. Is this why photos are so important to me? Is this the only thing tethering me to any memories I have? I am indeed the archivist.


Thrown in My Path

11 07 2010

There are no accidents whatsoever in the universe.

–Ram Dass

When I got the small book in the mail from my daughter, I was delighted. “Light is The Theme” is a compilation of photographs, architectural drawings and quotations about the design and construction of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, published in 1975. It struck my heart and mind in so many places and from so many directions.

As a photographer, I have taken a number of images of the Kimbell — it cries out to be photographed because of its texture, angles, curves and the way the light plays among those elements. It is really like a playful child, impossible to capture in a single image. But now to reach some of Lou Kahn’s thoughts gave me a sense of connectedness with the great architect.

“A great American poet once asked the architect, ‘What slice of the sun does your building have? What light enters your room?’
— as if to say the sun never knew how great it is until it struck the side of the building.”

Louis I. Kahn

When I first started reading (more like devouring) this small book, I posted something on Facebook about it and how appreciative I was that my daughter had sent it to me.  An online friend made a comment about Kahn that included a reference to his three families.  I didn’t know anything about Kahn’s personal life and hardly anything about his professional life, so I started to research him.

I found a movie, My Architect:  A Son’s Journey, online via Netflix.  The filmmaker is Nathaniel Kahn, the bastard son of Louis I. Kahn and product of Kahn’s liaison with Harriet Pattison, a landscape architect who worked with Kahn on several projects, including the Kimbell.  It took me the better part of an entire day to view this film because of various interruptions.  But I was stunned by what I learned about Louis I. Kahn.

First, the office of his firm was less than a block from where I had worked for a number of years.  I probably passed him on the street any number of times.  If I had passed him, I most likely wouldn’t have noticed him.  He was only 5′ 6″ tall, wore thick glasses and his face had a pocked appearance due to scars from burns he suffered as a small child in Estonia.

First Tangent:  One of the things I love about the building at the Kimbell is the unvarnished appearance.  One of the interviewees in the film said that they believed one of the reasons Kahn left the “raw” concrete in his buildings was because of the scars on his face.  How perfect is that?

The name of the book is Light is The Theme.  What is a photograph?  Merely the capturing of light on the media, whether it be film or a digital memory card.  A photograph can be edited, i.e., altered by changing the amount of light.

“Photography depends on light. Therefore, an understanding of light, what it is, how it behaves and how you can learn to use it, is essential to creating superlative photos.  Because the character and quality of a photograph can be altered by the character and quality of light, even the most-seasoned photographers puzzle over how a scene should be lit, what lighting angles to use for good results, and what exposure settings will bring out the best detail and tonal shading.”

(from “Light Photography – Writing with light” at http://www.photographytips.com/page.cfm/157)

Kahn is an artist, using light as an integral element of his buildings, not just an accidental play of nature.

I could easily list each of Kahn’s projects here and discuss the play of light on the angles and curves.  There are not many projects.  While he bid on many large projects, he was only engaged on a few.  A list can be found here:  http://www.greatbuildings.com/architects/Louis_I._Kahn.html   But there is really no point in that.  The point is that he was a deeply spiritual man who lived what society of the time deemed a morally bankrupt life.  He died $500,000 in debt, with a widow and daughter, two illegitimate children and their mothers mourning him.  But his buildings live in the light.

Second Tangent: I visit the Kimbell often.  I’ve been a member since I moved back to the DFW area in the late 80s.  There is an intimacy in the building that lets me feel comfortable, like going to a private place, whenever I’m there.  After my father died and my mother moved to Virginia, we would talk often on the phone.  On the occasions when I’d tell her that I was planning to visit the Kimbell, she would invariably tell me “That’s the last place your father and I went out to eat before he died.”  (Quite frankly, I wouldn’t mind my last meal on earth being from the little buffet at the Kimbell.  I’ll have the large plate, with the soup, salad AND quiche, please.  Oh yes.  I would like the gingerbread for dessert with a dollop of REAL whipped cream, thank you.)   So now when I visit the Kimbell and have lunch, it’s like my father and my mother are sitting there with me — under the wisteria if the weather is nice.

For me, the most moving part of the film was the last sequence where Nathaniel visited The National Assembly in Dacca, Bangladesh.  This was Kahn’s final project.  He died before it was complete.  It was built primarily of materials found near the site with local labor.  It is truly a building OF the people.  Nathaniel interviewed architect B. V. Doshi in the building.  Mr. Doshi asks how much time will be devoted to this project in the film.  When Nathaniel tells him he can only allow 10 minutes, Doshi weeps.  He says that the story of the building and the importance to the people of Bangladesh cannot possibly be conveyed in that brief time.  To me, Mr. Doshi’s tears told the story in only seconds.

Doshi tells how Kahn could “go into silence” and how among architects he is a guru.  It is really one of the most moving parts of a very touching film.

Third Tangent: My parents were seekers.  One path they took was the practice of yoga.  In 1971 they traveled to Rishikesh, India to their guru’s ashram.  When they came back they started making plans to move to India to live.  Because of some business concerns, they never did move to India, but my mother in particular always held the hope of ashram life in her heart.  After my father died in 1991, she moved to an ashram just outside Charlottesville, VA.  Now that I’m doing the calculations, she was 62 at the time — my current age.  After a brief time at the ashram she left — she said if she never peeled another carrot in her life again it would be a day too soon.  But where do I go now where I feel the greatest connection with my parents?  To the Kimbell.  A structure designed by the guru of light.

Light is The Theme, Comments on Architecture by Louis Kahn, Compiled by Nell E. Johnson, Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, Texas, 1975.

My Architect:  A Son’s Journey, a film by National Kahn

Photographs by Julie Delio, 2010, all rights reserved.

Old Dog — New Tricks

14 05 2010

I’m learning (note that I didn’t say “trying to learn’) how to use my DSLR camera and the post-processing programs I have at my disposal. I’m learning how to make better prints. I’m taking baby steps.

As most of you know (because I blabbered on and on about it), Joe and I went to Ireland last summer. A photographer’s dream, right? The weather sucked almost every day. Sun on maybe one day. We planned a trip to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher so that we would be at the Cliffs in the afternoon, when I had learned the light was best. It was very windy, spitting a fine mist and cold. ARGH.

On that same day when we were in Galway, we somehow ended up at a marina where there was a huge pile of scrap metal at the end. I had wandered away from Joe, who is used to it, and was eyeing the pile of metal. A local woman came by on her brisk walk. I asked her about the pile and she explained that they brought chewed up scrap metal from all over here by truck and then a ship (with a really big magnet) took it away. She “got” my fascination and she saw my camera. She told me to wait and she would walk by so I could show perspective. (Unedited overexposed and blurry photo — sorry) But don’t you love her red boots?

After she left, I got this shot.

What a mess, eh? But one thing stood out to me.

I am an old dog, but I can learn new tricks. It just takes a bit longer.

After she left, I got this shot.

Gran’s Lasagna

9 05 2010

I know everyone has one of these dishes. It’s easy to prepare, doesn’t make too much of a mess, it’s easy to serve, and everyone loves it. My answer to this is “Gran’s” lasagna. I’ve prepared it to take to neighbors following a funeral, taken it to potluck dinners, made it in response to a request for a special dinner and, most importantly, it has become a Christmas Eve tradition.

I took the photos and wrote most of the script for this last year, when my 30something daughter who lives in the San Francisco Bay area was unable to come to Texas for the Christmas holidays. As well as her sadness for not having time spent with family and friends, she was really disappointed that she wouldn’t share the usual Christmas Eve dinner and wanted me to send her the recipe for “Gran’s” lasagna so she could share it with her friends. The following photo essay was my response to her.

The base to the original recipe came from the box of lasagna noodles years and years ago. I made it for a dinner with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, ex-husband and 5 or 6 hungry children. Later that year when my mother-in-law was coming up with the menu for the Christmas Eve birthday dinner/celebration for one of my nephews, she asked me for the recipe. Since then it has been known as Gran’s Lasagna, much to my consternation.

I almost always make a double recipe. It takes no extra effort and the leftovers are as good, if not better, than the original. The pan I use is 18″ x 14″ and about 3″ deep. The recipe shown here uses ground beef, but it can be made with just about any ground meat (even meatballs cut in half) or meatless with mushrooms and other veggies. As you can see, I make it as easy for myself as possible. I used sauce and chopped garlic from a jar and pre-shredded cheese from a bag. You, of course, can peel and crush your own garlic, make your own sauce and shred your own cheese. (A complete shopping list can be found at the end of the post.) More power to you!


I do chop my own onions. My theory with sauteed onions is “the more the better,” so I use about 3 medium onions chopped and saute them with a generous portion of garlic in about 2 Ts. of olive oil.


When the onions are translucent, I remove about 1/2 of the onion/garlic mix, set it aside and add about a pound of sliced mushrooms to the mix and lightly saute them. You will need to add some more olive oil.


After mushrooms are lightly sauteed, I put them aside and then put the lean ground beef and the remaining sauteed onion and garlic in the pan to brown. You may have noticed that big pan next to the pan. It’s filled with water and on high heat to boil.


This “recipe” lends itself to improvisation.  This time, I looked in the fridge and found 3/4 of a green pepper which I chopped and added because it looks and tastes good.


When the meat has been thoroughly browned, add the mushroom mix back in it and stir them together.


Add sauce. For this doubled recipe, I put in 1 jar of tomato basil sauce.


Season as you desire. I added freshly ground pepper and sea salt (with garlic) and some dried basil.


Mix it all together, lower the heat, put on a lid and let it simmer while you prepare the cheese mixture and noodles, stirring occasionally.


Now that the meat sauce is simmering, the water should be boiling. Add the pasta. In this case, two boxes. Don’t just dump the box of dried noodles in the pan. Place them in the boiling water one at a time, arranging them so they are exposed to the boiling water. Try not to break the noodles. You will have leftovers, but intact noodles are easier to work with.


While the noodles are cooking, prepare the cheese filling. For one large container of ricotta cheese, use one slightly beaten egg, garlic powder (yes, MORE garlic) and dried basil (or oregano, but I prefer basil).


Almost ready.


The noodles are ready when they are pliable. Do not overcook.


Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.


After a light coating of vegetable oil on pan, cover bottom with plain sauce.


Put a layer of noodles over the plain sauce and then add 1/2 of meat sauce.


Add another layer of noodles and then all of the cheese mixture.


Another layer of noodles and the remaining meat sauce. We didn’t measure quite equal halves, so I added some plain sauce so it would cover this layer. IMPROVISE!


Cover the 2nd meat layer with noodles and then plain sauce.


Cover with a generous amount of shredded mozzarella cheese.


Clean as you go.


Bake the lasagna in 350 oven for probably an hour, until cheesy top is bubbly and NOT burned.


It’s difficult to get a photo of this lasagna plated, since as soon as it hits a plate someone grabs the plate and starts eating. But here’s a shot from Christmas Past just as serving began. That year, I used two smaller pans because I had used pork sausage in one half and the other half was vegetarian. As I mentioned above, this recipe is a perfect way to show off your own style and creativity. Buon appetito!

hot and ready

Shopping List:

olive oil to saute vegetables
2 – 3 medium onions, chopped
crushed garlic to taste
1 pound sliced mushrooms
2 – 3 pounds lean ground beef
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 jars tomato basil pasta sauce
2 boxes lasagna noodles
1 large egg
1 large container ricotta cheese
garlic powder
dried basil or oregano

Bluebonnets, Bluebonnets, Bluebonnets — It Must Be Spring in Texas

11 04 2010


Pioneer Village, Fredericksburg, Texas


On the Willow City Loop, Gillespie County, Texas


On the Willow City Loop, Gillespie County, Texas

Willow City Vista

On the Willow City Loop, Gillespie County, Texas


Somewhere in Central Texas


Art, Texas

Angelic Rest

On the grounds of the Art Hedwig United Methodist Church, Art, Texas

Alamo Fire

Wildseed Farms, Fredericksburg, Texas

The Forgotten Sculpture — Update to Previous Post

29 03 2010

Back in Part 3 of my series on the Fort Worth museum district, I had a photo of a eerily beautiful sculpture of a horse. I said that I couldn’t locate any information about the sculpture, either near its physical location or on the website of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Yesterday I made a special trip back to the museum to find this poor horse’s name. Again I searched all around the sculpture. There was one tiny sign on a wall about 30 feet away, but when I approached it I found it said “STAFF ONLY.” So I went in the building to get the name of the work and the artist, as well as the material it was made of. The information desk was busy with groups buying tickets for the Warhol exhibit, but I spotted a nicely dressed, middle-aged woman standing to the side. I asked if she was a docent and she told me that she works at the museum. I explained what I was looking for and she seemed familiar with the sculpture. So familiar that she knew the name of the sculptor off the top of her head: Deborah Butterfield. But she had to go behind the information desk to get a catalog of the museum’s collection to find the name of the piece. It wasn’t there — neither was Deborah Butterfield. So she asked the woman sitting in front of a computer to help us. She didn’t find the answer on the Modern’s website, but instead via Google (I don’t know where).


Hina by Deborah Butterfield.

After thanking the museum staff for their help (and shaking my head in disbelief), I went on about my other appointments for the day. After I got home a few hours later, it took only a few minutes to find many links to Deborah Butterfield and her marvelous horses. This one is, however, tells the fascinating story of Ms. Butterfield and her horses: http://artworksmagazine.com/2008/05/deborah-butterfield/

Her works are owned and have been exhibited worldwide. I wonder if she knows that Hina has been left to graze anonymously in an isolated corner of this museum.

Glimpse of Fort Worth Museum District – Part 3

21 03 2010

Dear Read,

I’m sorry I left you standing in the middle of the street back in January.  It seems life got in the way of our tour.  Let’s pick up where we were.

This is actually the part of our tour where I have the least knowledge.  Just east of the Kimbell is the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.  I must confess that most of the works at the Modern don’t tug my heartstrings.  To me, that’s what “art” is — emotion.  Whether it’s a pile of sticks or an elaborate mosaic mural, whether or not it is art is completely up to the viewer.

But the building . . . is spectacular.  From the Modern’s website:

“The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s building was designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The Modern is located in Fort Worth’s celebrated Cultural District, directly opposite the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by Louis I. Kahn, and near the Amon Carter Museum, designed by Philip Johnson. Ando’s design, which embodies the pure, unadorned elements of a modern work of art, is comprised of five long, flat-roofed pavilions situated on a 1.5 acre pond.”


So we’re walking across the street, approaching this gorgeous building from the southwest and are confronted by a huge metal sculpture twisting its way to the sky


This is a 67′ tall steel sculpture by Richard Serra.  You can stand inside it and look up to the sky.  It almost feels like being in the vortex of a tornado, but very serene.


Here’s more detailed information about the piece:  http://themodern.org/f_html/serra2.html#top

I have searched and can’t find information on an unobtrusive sculpture that stands tucked in a corner on the west side of the building.  If I were to name it, I would call it something like Desert Stallion.  I will find the name and artist and include it here, but in the meantime, enjoy.


Finally, going to the main entrance of the building, here’s a peek inside as well.


You can catch a view of a sculpture that amazes me. Titled Drape this work looks like a piece of fabric with the ability to move in the breeze, but it is in fact a bronze sculpture by Joseph Havel.


I’m going to leave you here and dash off to the Amon Carter Museum, where I want to catch this exhibit before it closes


But just a quick look at downtown from our vantage point before we go in. The Museum of Natural History is to our right, with the Kimbell and the Modern in front of us.

Fort Worth from the Steps of the Amon Carter

More Travels With Julie soon.