When the Landscape is Quiet Again: North Dakota's Oil Boom, Photographs by Sarah Christianson

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Natural gas flare from oil well adjacent to cattle pasture, White Earth River Valley, 2013 C Print 16x20 Inches
When the Landscape is Quiet Again: North Dakota's Oil Boom, Photographs by Sarah Christianson

1011 Market Street
2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
February 12th, 2014 - April 19th, 2014
Opening: February 13th, 2014 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

415 512 2020
Wed-Sat 12-5 ; and by appointment
documentary, environmental, oil north dakota, fracking, exhibit, landscape, photography
Free and open to the public


In 1973, during North Dakota's second oil boom, then-governor Art Link declared, "When we are through with that and the landscape is quiet again...let those who follow and repopulate the land be able to say, our grandparents did their job well. The land is as good and, in some cases, better than before."

Forty years later, another oil boom is underway in western North Dakota--"The Bakken." This one is fueled by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniqiues (fracking). Oil companies are working at breakneck speeds with little oversight to drill an estimated 48,000 new wells there. This has brought an overwhelming wave of people, jobs, and revenue to this once economically depressed region.

The economic benefits can't be denied, but in the wake of several recent high-profile oil spills and explosions, the environmental costs and impacts are becoming harder to ignore. Over the last year, photographer Sarah Christianson ( has documented the effects of the oil boom on her home state. Her color photographs bear witness to the transformation of a quiet agrarian landscape into an industrialized zone dotted with well-sites, criss-crossed by pipelines, lit up by natural gas flares, and contaminated by saltwater spills. Christianson examines how the scars from previous oil booms are healing and what new wounds are being inflicted in an attempt to answer the question:  what happens when this boom busts--when the landscape is quiet again?

Exhibition on view February 12-April 19. Opening reception with the artist February 13, 6-8pm. Panel talk "What the Frack?!" TBA, discussing the growing pains of oil development in North Dakota and what this could mean for California is Governor Brown approves regulations for fracking in the state.

This project was funded by an Individual Artist Commission grant of the San Francisco Arts Commission and an Investing in Artists grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation.