Oct 21, 2021 - Things to Do
Axios interviews: Austin photographer Sarah Wilson
An East Austin mural by Sarah Wilson of an essential woman worker.
An East Austin mural by Sarah Wilson of an essential woman worker. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

Striking, 19-foot murals of essential women workers can be spotted around Austin nowadays, the work of photographer Sarah Wilson.

What's happening: We caught up with Wilson, who was raised in Austin, ahead of Thursday night's Pecha Kucha, a free event in which she and other artists, comedians, chefs and community activists each give 10-minute long presentations. Here's a glimpse of our condensed interview with her:

What prompted the "Essentials" mural project?

"Something about the word essential sang to me. I was thinking about the essential workers out there, especially women, a lot of moms, who need to take care of their own families and are out there risking their lives."

How did it become a mural project?

"I was photographing essential women workers outside their place of business and then trying to show the work in public so no one had to go into a gallery. I thought, 'How do we make them public and not expensive and big and impactful?' My heroes are JR and Swoon — who work on a large scale with wheat paste."
Sarah Wilson assembles one of her essential women worker murals in Austin.
Sarah Wilson assembles one of her essential women worker murals in Austin. Photo courtesy of Sarah Wilson.

Why did you want to make the murals larger than life?

"It represents how I feel about the work these women are doing and the bravery and dedication they show on a daily basis."

Can you talk about practical challenges to keeping these murals up?

"Unfortunately, the weather — wind and rain. Sometimes the glue and the paper just didn’t want to stick to certain surfaces. Sometimes I’d go and repair it. Sometimes it would peel off."
  • There are currently about a half-dozen murals still up, down from a dozen earlier this year.

What has been the response from the subjects?

"They’re really, really excited. A high-risk [obstetrics] flight nurse, who works with women with COVID who are having a hard time breathing, told me that she shared the portrait with her staff. Some of them went and visited it, and it became something to celebrate in a challenging time."

Pecha Kucha Austin, free and open to the public, runs from 8:20-10:20pm Thursday at Distribution Hall, 1500 E. 4th Street.

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