Wordless Wednesday: Sutter Street

Sutter Street in downtown San Francisco near Union Square. We see the jumble of different architectural styles and heights that characterize these blocks.

This photo was taken in late February. The traffic and bustle of activity feel so long ago.

Ellis Street, San Francisco

Looking westward out from my office in San Francisco, I can see the entirety of Ellis Street, heading from downtown towards the interior hills of the city. Recently, I finally got a chance to walk the street from one end to the other.

Ellis Street downtown view from building

Ellis Street is a relatively modest east-west street, but like many others in this city it traverses a diverse cross-section of terrains and neighborhoods. It begins at the intersection with Market Street and Stockton Street, shown in the photo above. At the corner is the San Francisco’s flagship Apple Store. The large construction project that has taken over the intersection is part of the new Central Subway project, in particular, a series of tunnels that will connect the existing Powell Street BART and MUNI station to the new line that goes up Stockton Street.

At ground level, we can see the mixture of tall buildings, hotels, restaurants and tourist places that dominate the blocks around Union Square.

Ellis Street near Union Square

The street is an exercise in contrasts. As we move just a couple of blocks westward, the cityscape gives way to older ornate buildings house boutique hotels, lounges, dive bars, massage parlors, youth hostels, and apartments of long time residents trying to hold on in a changing and increasingly unaffordable city.

Ellis Street sign

Heading into the heart of the Tenderloin (“TL”) we cross Taylor Street, which we wrote about this summer. The neighborhood has its reputation for being sketchy and having among the last concentrated pockets of poverty in the city, but the diverse neighborhood contains beautiful architecture and a wide range of people and interests.

Ellis Street, TL

Friends live here. There are cultural institutions here, such as the “509 Annex” of the Luggage Store Gallery where the regular Outsound New Music Series was temporarily hosted (it is now back at the main LSG building on Market Street). A couple of blocks south is the new home of Counterpulse, an experimental performance arts organization. Glide Memorial Church is a veritable institution at the corner of Ellis and Taylor that serves many in the neighborhood and beyond.

The social and architectural landscape again changes dramatically as we approach Van Ness Avenue, one of the main north-south boulevards in the city. It is lined with both tall (and expensive) apartment buildings as well as quite a few car dealerships.

Ellis and Van Ness

Heading west from Van Ness on Ellis we continue up an incline to Cathedral Hill. Not surprisingly, there is a cathedral here: specifically St. Mary’s, a beautiful gem of modernist architecture. They also have a huge modern pipe organ and I have heard several concerts there.

St Mary's Cathedral

Several of the apartment buildings in these blocks are quite tall, and remind me more of 1960s/1970s New York City apartments than those typically associated with San Francisco. I particularly like this cylindrical building.

Apartment building on Cathedral Hill

Continuing westward, we enter a more low-rise residential neighborhood, and the first of a few continuity gaps in Ellis Street. It stops at block of schools anchored by Rosa Parks Elementary School before picking up again a block later.

Dead end at Rosa Parks Elementary School

This section of the street has quite a few gaps, actually, some of which are probably from the redevelopment of the Fillmore District. Indeed, Ellis is mostly pedestrian walkways at its intersection with Fillmore in the middle of the “Jazz Heritage District”. A block south is the building Fillmore Heritage Center that housed the ill-fated San Francisco branch of Yoshi’s.

Fillmore

It still has a restaurant and concert venue under various managements, as well as the larger-than-life photos on its facade.

When Ellis Street resumes two blocks to the west, it is a smaller, treelined residential street with pretty two-story residences of the classic San Francisco style.

Ellis Street residential block

The next large crossing is Divisadero. I have never quite figured out exactly what it is that Divisadero is dividing.

Ellis and Divisadero

In recent years Divisadero has been a destination street in itself. I have done a bit of photography here a few blocks south, and had one of my photos from that set displayed in a show at Rare Device.

Just past the intersection is the final uphill block that I had been able to see from the office window.

Final block of Ellis Street

It is the steepest block of the street, and the houses reflect that. This is a rather archetypical San Francisco street scape.

Iconic San Francisco residential block

Ellis Street ends at the top of the rise at an unassuming intersection with St Joseph’s Street.

Terminus of Ellis Street

St Joseph’s is one of several streets here that is confined to the small hill neighborhood of Anza Vista. Over a century ago, this area was a large cemetery. All the plots have long since been moved to Colma, and it is now a fancy hilltop neighborhood whose apartment buildings and houses look more like the Berkeley hills or Daly City than the traditional parts of San Francisco.

Anza Vista

The architectural dissonance is not surprising as Anza Vista was developed after World War II.

The walk was quite a nice one, not too long or strenuous and it was a lovely warm autumn day. But I was ready for a break, and caught a 38 Geary Express MUNI back downtown and plotted future walking adventures for the city.

Weekend Cat Blogging: SF SPCA Macy’s Holiday Windows

Every year, the San Francisco SPCA teams up with Macy’s to produce Holiday Windows featuring adoptable pets at the flagship store in downtown San Francisco. It’s a great holiday tradition here, and an opportunity to find new homes for pets over the holidays.

Over the past seven years, the Holiday Windows have helped the SF SPCA raise nearly $400,000 and find homes for over 2,300 animals. Thank you to our friends at Macy’s for their commitment to helping us find loving homes for San Francisco’s cats and dogs.

There were mostly kittens and adolescent cats on display when I visited the windows earlier today. I was particularly taken with this pair of black-furred brothers.

There is always a theme to the windows, and this year it appeared to be gift boxes, as if these kittens were to both be a gift and to receive a gift.

But the windows also often feature a city vibe as well.

To find out more about SF SPCA Macy’s Holiday Windows, follow this link. And if you happen to be in the San Francisco area this holiday season, I recommend stopping by Union Square to see the pets.


Weekend Cat Blogging #394 is hosted by pam and sidewalk shoes.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by Nikita and Elvira at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging: SF SPCA Holiday Windows 2011

Each year, the San Francisco SPCA teams up with Macy’s in San Francisco to feature adoptable pets in the holiday window displays at their main store in Union Square.  And we at CatSynth present some of the cats that are featured in the windows and available for adoption.

The windows featured a theme this year that appeared to me as a series of gears and old machinery.  It turns out that the theme is in fact “Make a Wish” and the machinery represents a “wish factory”.  Clearly the wishes here are for loving homes for all the adoptable animals.

The program is always popular with visitors to busy Union Square.  And it has been quite successful, placing many animals in homes and raising funds for the San Francisco SPCA’s many other programs.

The holiday windows continue through January 1, with different animals rotating through each day.  If you are in San Francisco this holiday season, I encourage you to check it out.  Those who aren’t going to be in the area can still enjoy the displays via the live video feeds.

You can find out more about Macy’s SF SPCA Holiday Windows at this website, including hours, volunteer opportunities, and donation information.


Weekend Cat Blogging #341 is hosted by Billy Sweetfeets Gingersnap.

The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by the always hard-working Nikita and Elivra at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

No Fooling, We Mean It! – McLoughlin Gallery

“No Fooling, We Mean It!” at The McLoughlin Gallery is a show that is simultaneously playful and serious. The cavernous space of the gallery plays host to several large-scale works by sculptors David Middlebrook, Jeff Schomberg and Doug Thielscher. Each of the sculptors has a different focus, Schomberg on metal, Thielscher on stone, and Middlebrook on mixed materials. But all three present very serious well-constructed and polished piece (“no fooling”) with a sense of humor and fun (“fooling”).  Additionally, all three are local artists, working and residing in the extended Bay Area.

The overall presentation has a sparseness, with lots of empty space and exposure of the gallery’s bare concrete walls that make it easy to focus on a single piece at any given moment. Even the larger stone works are not crowded and blend with structure of the space. I was most immediately drawn to Schomberg’s metal work, and in particular his pair of geometric wall pieces, Hinged and Unhinged.

[Jeff Schomberg, Hinged (2009).  Found metal objects in steel frame.  Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery.]

[Jeff Schomberg, Uninged (2009).  Found metal objects in found frame assemblage.  Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery. Click to enlarge.]

The rectangular frames serve as a boundary between the space of the gallery and the empty space within the pieces. Inside, each object is given room to be seen separately, such as the large circle in Unhinged or the intricate thin metal lines in both pieces that remind of my street maps. Indeed, the combination of geometric elements and metal coincide with my own focus on urban landscape and infrastructure. (See the similar elements in yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday post.) The circular elements seem particularly prominent in contrast to the mostly straight-line shapes of the found-metal components. Still other objects manage to retain their original functional shape and industrial history from before they became art. His mixed-media piece Trumbull takes the industrial theme one step further. An old rusted fuse box has been combined with a video of a fireplace and reassembled into a new piece of machinery. It is futuristic, in that delightful dystopian sort of way, even as it looks back on earlier electrical technology.

[Jeff Schomberg, Trumbull (2011).  Fuse box with video.  Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery.  Click image to enlarge.]

These pieces, however, do stand apart within the overall exhibit. If there is one theme that cuts across all of the artists, it is “human-like forms that really aren’t human.” Among Schomberg’s metal sculptures are a series of small human-like figures with heads shaped like pipes or other pieces of hardware – probably the most humorous of his offerings. David Middlebrook’s assemblages have an organic look about them and some such as King of Things seem like they could get up and walk around. Think of Terry Gilliam’s cartoons or some of the creatures from the 1970s animated film Fantastic Planet.

[David Middlebrook, King of Things (2010).  Bronze, aluminum, Indian gibble, cast expoxy.  Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery.  Click image to enlarge.]

The bronze box that serves as the base for the large stone egg in Middlebrook’s Carbon was an interesting touch. Doug Thielsher’s stone sculptures are the most directly figurative, but even here the figures are quite distorted, as in the two marble heads of The Ninth Circle that melt into one another. Thielsher’s sculptures were most noticeable for their use of the gallery space. From a distance, they seem like well-placed classical sculpture in a traditional art museum – and indeed they all draw from biblical or mythological themes. Up close, one sees the more surreal and humorous nature. Again, the one that most resonated for me was the most geometric. In Cain #3, the detached hand is almost lost underneath the large white cube and the black dot.  Similarly, the hand seems to disappear into the large black cube of Cain #1.

[Doug Thielscher, Cain #3 (2006).  Carrara and Belgian black marble.  Image courtesy of McLoughlin Gallery. ]

The exhibit opened, appropriately, on April 1, and will remain on display though May 21. For more information about the exhibition and visiting, visit the gallery’s website.

Weekend Cat Blogging: SF SPCA Holiday Windows

Every year during the holidays, San Francisco SPCA teams up with Macy’s in San Francisco to feature adoptable pets in the holiday window displays at their main store in Union Square.  For Weekend Cat Blogging, we at CatSynth present some of the cats that are featured in the windows and available for adoption.

While many of the cats go about their normal routines, this particular youngster was hamming it up for the visitors (and their cameras):

Like most holiday window displays, there is an overarching theme to the decor. This year was probably my favorite to date, as it featured scenes reminiscent of New York City during the holidays, with patches of snow on tall buildings, sidewalks and bridges. I particularly liked how the display featured this steel bridge converted into a walkway (and comfortable sleeping platform) for the cats:

At one point during my visit, one of the black kittens came over to play with the sleeping orange kitten:

The black kitten wanted to play and “make friends”, alternately batting and grooming the other one, who seemed to have no interest whatsoever. A similar scene ensued with the two older cats below the bridge, where the darker one came over and started enthusiastically grooming the lighter cat, who was less than enthusiastic about this. Nonetheless, all the antics provided an added dimension to the visit.

You can read more about the program at the official Macy’s SF/SPCA Holiday Windows site. This year, they are also provide live streaming video for those who cannot come to see the windows in person, including mobile streaming page for iPad/iPhone/iPod devices:

The SF SPCA is of course welcoming donations to support this program and all its other efforts.


Weekend Cat Blogging #289 is hosted by the tireless Nikita Cat at Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat.

The Carnival of the Cats will up on Sunday at When Cats Attack!

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.