Why Does Seattle Have Such A Color Problem?
by Jen Graves
on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 2:05 PM
Photo by Beth Sellars
Houses like this one in Ballard are the exception. This was emailed to me by Beth Sellars, an art curator, in response to my story in last week's paper. Email me bright Seattle buildings and if I get enough good ones, I'll post them to Slog.
"There's enough green here! There's enough blue! Paint your house purple!" Rolon Bert Garner charges, expending valuable oxygen in the few minutes he gets between inhaler treatments for his chronic pulmonary disease. "Just loll in color," he says, and then the veteran Seattle artist rests. Garner is a painter. He uses colors that polite Northwestern culture would consider either gauche or the tools of a madman. This is on purpose. Why? "Just being anti-Northwest for years and years and years," Garner says.
Garner is talking about that old Seattle aesthetic: foggy gray, woolly blue, fuzzy green, shady brown. The colors that pass for colors in Seattle's built environment are beyond muted. They are life-sucking. Pale. Apologetic. Drained. Draining. Color that's actually the opposite of color, says a writer I know. There is no known reason for this phenomenon. In climatically comparable Ireland, saturated colors live and breathe as freely as any other citizens of the spectrum, not only in villages but along Dublin streets. In Seattle, you'd starve if you needed to eat color. Everything is... respectable. Not too LOUD. Is it to do with respecting nature? Not the human nature that lived here originally, but, you know, Nature. Nature in green, blue, gray, and brown. Is that why every paint job is a pale imitation of earth, trees, sky, and water?