Mural with bikini-clad woman, LDS Temple on fire sparks criticism
Canyon Inn • Police say art work is a free-speech issue.
Published: April 15, 2011 11:05PM
Updated: April 15, 2011 11:07PM
image
Cimaron Neugebauer | The Salt Lake Tribune This mural at Canyon Inn, 3700 E. Fort Union Blvd., has drawn complaints. But police say there's nothing illegal about it.

Cottonwood Heights • A brightly colored mural depicting the Salt Lake City LDS Temple on fire and a woman in a thong bikini on a concrete wall outside a restaurant is generating a lot of talk.

Jim Stojack, owner of the Canyon Inn at 3700 E. Fort Union Blvd. near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon , said the final design of the mural was a little more than he originally intended.

“All I wanted was a temple up there. That wasn’t my call,” Stojack said of the flames and the woman wearing a thong. “I drive into the parking lot and said, ‘Holy sh--!’”

Apparently others have had a similar reaction, because Cottonwood Heights police and City Council members have gotten calls from people unhappy with the mural — specifically the burning temple.

“It is not so much the right- or left-hand side [of the mural], it is more the religious connotation in the middle,” said Tee Tyler, a Cottonwood Heights City Council member. “That is what is expressed generally to me.”

Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo said he has received a handful of complaints, too, but it’s a freedom of speech issue and his hands are tied. He tells callers to contact the owner.

For his part, Stojack — a Catholic married to a Mormon — says the response has been positive.

“I haven’t had one complaint; customers thought it was great,” said Stojack, who believes many of his customers are Mormon.

The mural was completed over three days about two weeks ago by an artist named Kier. Stojack gave the artist ideas of what he was looking for and the artist “put his art and his flare on it.”

“I don’t mean to offend anybody,” Stojack said. “It is supposed to be provoking, like Van Gogh.”

The mural has a banner that reads “Canyon Inn” and the words “don’t drink and drive” surrounding the company name. It also depicts a voluptuous woman wearing thong underwear and a bikini top, a police car with a license plate “CRPT 1S” (for “corrupt ones”) and a large fire burning at the base of the Salt Lake Temple. There is also alcohol surrounding the temple and two boys holding a cross, wearing white robes and red cords with dollar signs. A beehive is also portrayed.

Stojack said the woman is a rock climber, and a small skier in the background on the other side of the mural is meant to represent Utah’s outdoor activities.

The boys in the mural are “two altar boys trying to right the cross.” The dollar signs represent “Catholics and Mormons fighting over the almighty dollar,” he said.

Tyler said he is “respectful” of freedom of speech rights, saying Stojack “has the right to offend people if he wishes.”

Chris Devney and his 9-year-old son from Orlando, Fla., are enjoying the final weeks of the ski season in Utah. They went to the Lifthouse ski shop across the parking lot for supplies.

Devney said he can understand why parts of the mural could be offensive to some, but mostly he says the artist has too much going on in his head.

“I’m not totally offended by it, but I don’t get what he is trying to say by it either,” he said.

Devney says the mural, which can be seen from the road, may not be friendly for all ages.

“I just tell him not to look,” he says about his son. When asked if that works, his son shook his head “no.”

Some passersby enjoyed the effort.

“It doesn’t bother me in the least,” said Cottonwood Heights resident Margaret Gagestein. Her husband said he likes the style of the mural.

“I like the artwork, it is better than a blind wall,” said Pete Gagestein. “The subject matter might be a little shaky.”

Among other things, Russo said he believes the art is saying something to Cottonwood Heights police officers, who have taken heat from the proprietor in the past for arresting people for driving under the influence near the restaurant, which serves alcohol.

“We think he is trying to send a message [to us] but we aren’t going to bite,” Russo said.

Stojack said he’s happy with the way the mural turned out, but that doesn’t mean he won’t change some of it in the future.

“I’m always open [to ideas],” Stojack said.

cimaron@sltrib.com