337 brought about a new ideal to the Utah artistic landscape last
year, changing a lot of ideals and conceptions of what art should and
shouldn't be. When the demolition finally took place a couple
months ago, many assumed that the book had finally been closed on the
project. Little did we realize it was just the first
chapter in many more to come.
Present Tense is a new display over at the Salt Lake Art Center, featuring old and new work of 337 artists combined into one main display. And from my understanding, it's also the first time the main floor of the Center has been opened to display only local artists since it's opening. I got to talk with 337 artists Nick Potter and CJ Lester about the display, the documentary, and some of their feelings post-337.
Nick Potter & CJ Lester
Gavin: Hey guys! First, tell us a little about yourselves.
CJ: Mixed media artist and art teacher at Highland High School. Show and sell oil paintings. I have the three "Zaftig Dolls" in the entrance to the SLAC galleries.
Nick: Erin and I are currently living in Centerville, UT and are originally from Kaysville and Lagoon (Farmington) respectively. Erin graduated from WSU with her bachelors of Fine Arts in flat media (printmaking, painting, drawing) and I am currently perusing an English degree at the U. Erin is good at art and I am bad at art in a good way.
Gavin: You were all involved with the 337 Project, so tell us what piece you did for the building.
Nick: Erin and I collaborated on a upstairs room of the 337 building. The room consisted of old furniture including a dilapidated couch and vintage television along with an array of lamps and clusters of old frames and pictures that we worked on. We kind of were trying an retro/eerie vibe with torn wall paper and murals of monsters and stuff that represented the imaginary monsters we were afraid of in our youth. It was pretty cute.
CJ: Did the text bathroom at 337. Painted and cut out a door to look like the front and back of a naked Zaftig woman for the door gallery outside. Facilitated 5th and 6th graders from Nibley Park Elementary School to paint a mural on one-half of the back retaining wall (still standing but painted over).
Gavin: What was the time like for you while creating it before the opening?
CJ: Exhilarating. Although I've not base jumped, I imagine it to be comparable to base jumping. It's a continual rush. You know where you're going to end up. The journey changes from second to second. There is no "wrong" - only energizing movement to the end goal - opening night.
Nick: Fun, liberating and exciting. We started fairly early and worked at a pretty steady pace so it ended up being really satisfying experience.
Gavin: What did it feel like for you when it finally opened?
Nick: Surreal. Seeing everyone else's work was really inspiring and motivating for us.
CJ: It was like the best stage, visual and performance art venue rolled into one. The art created the backdrop. The interactive pieces especially drew the viewers/visitors into the art work. Via experience and response, the viewers/visitors gave the building living energy beyond what already existed. Each component of 337 was equally paramount to the 337 experience.
Gavin: For the year that it was left standing, what did you think of the changes going on outside?
CJ: It reminded me somewhat of the jilted bride from "Great Expectations" - she was once a glowing, beautiful bride (much like 337 while it was open to the public). As when the building closed to the public, once jilted, her looks and connection to the outside world slowly deteriorated.
Nick: Um, I don't think we really noticed the changes after the initial hoopla subsided. In our mind the project was over and the building was mentally gone. Despite the length of time it took to literally destroy the building, it felt gone to us after the last day that it was open - we never went back.
Gavin: The day it finally came down, where were you, and what were your thoughts about it?
Nick: We showed up during the final portion of the demolition. It was a nice conclusion and a good reminder over a year later the joys that went into what was created there and the inspiration that it gave
CJ: I was at the demolition. Initially, tears ran down my cheeks. The destruction of the building symbolized closure on one of the most rewarding art making experiences I've known. After the tears came joy and peace. The demolition was part of the project. Without it, the project was not complete.
Gavin: Have you seen the documentary, and what do you think of it?
Nick: We saw an early cut of the documentary and thought it was really well done, really professional.
CJ: I too have seen the director's first cut of the documentary. It shows the journey of the project, the art created a long the way, and the building's demise, I hope people beyond our geographical state get to see it and create their own 337 project.
Gavin: What do you think of the display happening at the Salt Lake Art Center?
CJ: I'm looking forward to seeing outgrowths of 337 in a philosophically variant venue.
Nick: Really exciting. We haven't seen everything that is going into it yet, but what we have seen has been incredible. The other day in particular we saw Ben's piece up and were just blown away. He is nuts and absolutely brilliant. The whole show looks really great.
Gavin: Do you believe 337 has secured a place in the city's history, or do you feel the work after is what will define it?
Nick: Sure. I think the 337 project has definitely secured its spot in SLC history. I think the challenge will be to make sure that it isn't the singularly defining art event for Salt Lake. The test now is to see whether we as a community of artists can build off of the inspiration of 337 in a way that will make Salt Lake City known for its vibrant, continually progressive art scene, and not just for a brief moment in the spotlight.
CJ: I think that 337 has secured a place in the city's history. I also feel that subsequent conceptually founded work will reiterate 337's place in our city's history as the new work creates its own place in SLC's creative history.
Gavin: What have you all got coming up for the rest of the year?
Nick: We have a little print in Leia Bell's "Signed & Numbered" right now as a part of a group show with a lot of local and national print makers. I have a split show with a pretty good friend and similarly untrained artist at Slowtrain for July gallery stroll. And later Erin and I are going to be showing together at Nobrow in October. We have a lot of other art mischief in the works as well, but those are the only ones ironed out and dated.
CJ: I'll have paintings in the Taste Of The Nation's silent auction for the third year in a row. Last year, I taught half time. I'm teaching photography full-time at Highland this year. By doing so, I will limit and focus my personal art making in order to assume my new teaching position, giving young photo artists a chance to explore and grow. I will continue to seek out venues for non-traditional social commentary in art.