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In Memoriam: Paul Vexler, 1947 – 2022

Paul Vexler (Photo credit: Molly Addington)

By the time Paul Vexler chose to pursue his art full time in 2006, he already had decades of experience and a unique command over his favored material. Observing nature and the movement of trees, Paul understood the flexible properties of wood and created sculpture of remarkable elegance and beauty with seemingly impossible arrays of loops and knots. Simultaneously a mathematician, a builder and an artist, he would be described by those who knew him best as a thinker. We saw him make works small enough to sit on a coffee table but his vision led him to create enormous sculptures which activate prominent public spaces throughout Washington State and beyond. Nature offered Paul an endless source for imagination and resilience, a world full of spirals, helices, crystal lattices, and polyhedral forms. Just as he experimented with the ways his favored material could “be,” he lived his life embracing possibility and change.

Paul Vexler, “Red Eddy,” 2016, wood, installation at the Vail Visitor’s Center. (Image courtesy of Go Vail)

After finishing his Bachelor of Fine Art from Penn State University in Centre County, Paul taught art at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey for three years before finding work as a carpenter and general contractor. In June 1968, Paul married Sonia Siegel and their partnership led to two lovely daughters, Eleven and Jessica. By the early 1970s, they had arrived in Washington and settled in Snohomish County. Perhaps an early sign of Paul’s artistic ambition and ability was the marvelous geodesic timber family home he built on their wooded property. Not long after that, he co-founded Quantum Windows and Doors in 1982. While he always had his heart with Quantum, he eventually sold his partnership in the longstanding successful company and this allowed him to focus wholly on a career as an artist.
Paul’s artwork quickly attracted attention and he worked closely with curator Bryan Ohno to further his audience. In 2008, he placed a major public artwork at Everett Community College and over the subsequent decade and a half received more than 15 site-specific commissions for public art, both wood and aluminum, from around the country. His work was recognized as wonderfully innovative, combining aspects of science and spatial aesthetics in such unique ways that people would recognize ‘a Paul Vexler’ immediately. Paul developed entirely new sculptural techniques and highly customized equipment, building a second studio space three stories tall which allowed for even further development of ideas and experimentation with large scale work.
In addition to large scale public sculptures, Paul continued to create smaller works for gallery displays. He first participated in gallery exhibitions at D’Adamo/Woltz in Seattle before establishing a long-term relationship with Foster/White Gallery in 2010. Paul Vexler’s work has been an invaluable presence at Foster/White over the years, and we have seen first-hand how his artwork enlivened our visitors and enhanced the gallery space with a soaring verticality and eye-opening scale. Paul passed away on December 14, 2022 at the age of 75. He will be greatly missed but he will live on through his immeasurable contribution to the artistic heritage of our area.

Paul exhibited work around the country, including at Washington State University, Tri-Cities, WA; Holter Museum of Art, Helena, MT; and Boise Art Museum, Boise, ID. He created permanent installations for Washington State University, Everett, WA; Delta Airlines Sky Lounge at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, SeaTac, WA; and the Lynnwood Convention Center, Lynnwood, WA; among others. His sculptures are in collections including Swedish Hospital, Issaquah, WA; King County Library System, Auburn, WA and Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana. In 2011 he was awarded Artist of the Year at Schack Art Center in Everett.

“With respect to form, I have always loved mathematics and especially geometry,” Vexler said in a 2016 interview. “I am usually using them to design and understand my work. I like to create shapes based on specific parameters. For example, a circle has a certain radius or a cube has a certain edge length. Complex shapes have more than one parameter. More often than not, when I make sculptures, I am playing with parameters. Some results are predictable, but there are also many surprises. I have come to realize that space and light are as important as the materials. I have known this for a long time, but I seem to relearn it, more intensely, over and over again.”

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