Boren Banner Series: Sadie Wechsler

October 23, 2021 – April 17, 2022

Seattle-born, Portland-based photographer Sadie Wechsler crafts images that are the result of intensive research, often focusing on shifting environments and their histories. She frequently manipulates her images by physical and/or digital means to underscore the altered state of the landscape. Wechsler’s contribution to the Boren Banner Series is a new work inspired by the ecological history of the Frye Art Museum's First Hill neighborhood. Currently in process, the image will be based on the artist’s research into plant communities that were present on First Hill around 1850—the period preceding the arrival of white settlers and the ensuing transformation of the land through logging, leveling, infilling, and urban development.

Wechsler’s investigation has brought her into contact with curators at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, as well as members of the Duwamish Tribe. Along with other Coast Salish peoples, the Duwamish—whose aboriginal territory includes the current cities of Seattle, Burien, Tukwila, Renton, and Redmond—cultivated trees and plants, using fire and other tools to support a stable ecosystem over thousands of years. The species they nurtured, such as big leaf maple, madrone, western red cedar, thimbleberry, huckleberry, nettle, sword fern, and camas, continue to thrive in this bioregion. With the assistance of her research contacts, the artist identified locations in which to photograph plant communities akin to those present during the pre-settlement period. Rather than a nostalgic or romanticized semblance of the past, however, Wechsler aims to create an image that urges viewers to consider more deeply the species and terrain that surround them.

Wechsler's billboard-size photograph represents her "vision of an opening" through the concrete, metal, and glass of the Frye's current environs. "This is a work in the spirit not of restoration, but revitalization—a marker of bringing life," she says. "It is speculative, connecting past and present states of the site to create possibility for reimagination of the future."

Sadie Wechsler received a BA from Bard College in 2007 and an MFA from Yale School of Art in 2013. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally and was included in FORMAT International Photography Festival in England and Beijing and Out of Sight in Seattle. Other group shows include those at SAD Gallery, Seattle; Johalla Projects, Chicago; Aperture Gallery, New York; Belfast School of Art; Photoville, Brooklyn; and Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, OR. She has had solo shows at De Soto Gallery in Culver City, CA, and at Gallery 4Culture in Seattle. Wechsler has received the Delivan Grant from Bard College and the smArt Ventures Grant from the City of Seattle. She has also been an artist in residence at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, CO, and a participant in The Arctic Circle expeditionary residency program. In 2016, she self-published her first monograph Part I: Redo, and her work is included in the collections of the Yale School of Art Library, the Hammer Museum at UCLA and the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and in the King County Portable Collection.

About the Series

The Boren Banner Series is a new public art initiative by the Frye Art Museum that reflects the Museum’s commitment to showcasing artists of the Pacific Northwest. Presented biannually, the series gives regional artists the opportunity to create new site-specific work or show a previously unexhibited piece at monumental scale in the form of a 16 x 20 ft. vinyl banner. The billboard-size work is prominently sited on the Museum’s east facade, facing Boren Avenue: the Frye’s most visible and accessible physical interface.

Boren Banner Series: Sadie Wechsler is organized by Amanda Donnan, Chief Curator, and David Strand, former Associate Curator. Generous support for the series is provided by the Frye Foundation and Frye Members. This iteration is also supported, in part, by 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.

Sadie Wechsler. Between the Tideflats and the Lake, 2021. Digital photograph on vinyl. 16 x 20 ft. Courtesy of the artist

Sadie Wechsler. Between the Tideflats and the Lake, 2021. Digital photograph on vinyl. 16 x 20 ft. Courtesy of the artist