Written from Seattle, these essays pursue ideas and enthusiasms about visual art, the built environment, and landscape. They issue from close observation and description, and they coalesce around intersections and associations.

Stepping Out in Georgetown

Last weekend, cultural historian, art lover, and food enthusiast Nell and I explored Georgetown with a group of about fifteen. Our walking tour was offered by Nell’s company, Localist, which creates customized itineraries for visitors coming to Seattle, and cosponsored by Friend of Georgetown History. We started with some background about the south Seattle neighborhood’s early… Read more »

Seeing the Trees for the Forest

When we talk about someone being unable to see the forest for the trees, the characterization is disparaging. We represent this hapless person as overcome by a mass of detail and lacking the means to perceive the organizing pattern that binds constituent parts. But I like to get a little lost now and again in… Read more »

Short and Sweet: A Book Review for Valentine’s Day

On this day of love, relationship advice from UCLA architectural historian and theorist Sylvia Lavin to architecture and contemporary art: “‘To be one with’ may make a nice romantic fantasy, but ‘to be two with’ makes more profound politics. And possibly more gratifying as well. When kissing and enmeshed, architecture is surprised into responding, made… Read more »

Under the Umbrella

Today, February 10th, is National Umbrella Day. I mark the occasion and celebrate the accessory, as my blog title is its namesake. As I began to map out my art and architecture adventures and essays in August, I hunted about for a moniker. My partner suggested Yellow Umbrella, and I appreciatively snatched the name up. I… Read more »

In Frank Lloyd Wright’s Corner

It was a wild and windy morning when my partner and I arrived at the Tracy House in Normandy Park, Washington, a few weeks ago. In the previous days, Seattle had been buried under inches of snow, and we had been housebound, venturing out only for sledding and short walks. Making our way south of the… Read more »

Attack the Block. Allow It.

Films from 2011 were honored last week at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globes ceremony. This morning, the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominations for the 84th annual Academy Awards. In a nod to this season of cinema celebration, I consider, here, a gem of a film whose name you… Read more »

At Home with the Eameses

Mid-century modern design continues to be both critically acclaimed and commercially coveted, and Charles and Ray Eames remain its brightest American luminaries. Their furniture pieces for the Herman Miller Company, including their lounge chair and ottoman set and their molded plastic rocker, are still available for sale at the chi-chi furniture store Design Within Reach, and images… Read more »

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I’m recently returned from a weekend trip to Charleston, South Carolina. The heinous history of American slavery is plainest and rawest in the South, where whites fought longest to preserve it. And so I think of the region as something like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire: an aging beauty, beguiling and a little perverse, with an… Read more »

Lights, Camera, Stop Action

In the late winter of 1928, the Seattle Theatre, now the Paramount, opened its doors for the first time. As recounted on its website, it showcased an impressive lobby outfitted with “French baroque plaster moldings, gold-leaf encrusted wall medallions, rich paint colors, beaded chandeliers, and lacy ironwork.” It was, and now is again since its 1990s… Read more »

Corporations, Public Space, and Conversation

For these past weeks, as I traveled from Seattle to Omaha and then Baltimore, I’ve been mulling over a number of issues. They have coalesced for me on what I see as a common ground. Let me explain. Back in August, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, provoked by a vocally assertive contingent over tax and entitlement programs… Read more »