What if you put together an art exhibit and nobody came?
There are almost three dozen disappointed artists whose exhibition at the Finch Lane Gallery has been seen by, well, pretty much nobody. Every 3½ years, 15 Bytes magazine selects 35 Utah artists, age 35 and under, who it considers worth keeping an eye on. The 2020 show was scheduled to open just as the coronavirus pandemic closed everything nonessential down.
“I can’t help but feel disappointed to know that work that I’m really proud of is hanging on a wall with no one to view it,” said photographer Jamie Kyle, one of those 35 artists. She gathers and arranges objects to create “still life” photographic tableaus.
Artists of Utah, the nonprofit behind 15 Bytes, sponsors the 35x35 show. “It serves as a snapshot of what the younger generation of Utah artistic talent is up to,” said 15 Bytes editor Shawn Rossiter.
THE ARTISTS OF 35x35
Megan Arne • megan-arne.com, instagram.com/studioarne
Henry Becker • instagram.com/henryjbecker
Adah Bennion • facebook.com/ada.bee.9, instagram.com/adahbennion
Carol Bold • carolbold.com, facebook.com/theartofcarolbold, instagram.com/carolboldart
Caitlin Connolly • caitlinconnolly.com
Megan Knoblock Geilman • worksoftranslation.com, instagram.com/worksoftranslation
Rachel Hancey • instagram.com/rachelhancey
Dana Hansen • danahansenart.com
Anita Hawkins • instagram.com/anitahawks
Kei Ito • kei-ito.com, instagram.com/kei.ito.art
Trishelle Jeffery • trishellejeffery.com, instagram.com/trishellejeffery
Erik Jensen • erikjensenart.com, facebook.com/erikjensenart, instagram.com/erikjensenart
Natalie Kirk • natkirk.com, instagram.com/natkirkphoto
Jamie Kyle • jamieakyle.com
Mitchell Lee • instagram.com/tchell_lee
Ron Linn • ronlinnportfolio.com
Emily Quinn Loughlin • emilyquinnloughlin.com, instagram.com/emilyquinnloughlin
Laura Hope Mason • laurahopeart.com, instagram.com/laurahope_art
Sarah May • sarahlizmay.com
Kylie Millward • kyliemillward.com, instagram.com/kyliemillward
Art Morrill • artmorrill.com
Alison Neville • alisondneville.com, instagram.com/alisondneville
Hannah Nielsen • instagram.com/hanielsendoodles
Zachary Norman • zacharydeannorman.com
Lis Pardoe • lispardo.com, instgram.com/lispardoe
Alexis V. Rausch • alexisrausch.com, instagram.com/alexisrausch
Mary Boerens Sinner • marysinnerfineart.com
Jordan Snow • jordansnowart.com, instagram.com/jordansnowart
Danielle Susi • daniellesusi.com, instagram.com/daniellesusi
Douglas Tolman • douglastolman.com, instagram.com/douglastolman
Megan Trueblood • instagram.com/megantruebloodart
Justin Watson • justinwatsom.com, instagram.com/justin-.-watson
Sarah Winegar • sarahwinegar.com
The magazine issues an open call to Utah artists age 35 and younger to submit their work. The organization’s board members vote based on blind submissions, and 35 are chosen to join the exhibition.
“The result this year, as in the past, is an eclectic mix of artists working in a variety of media and styles — oil painting, installation, digital work, animation, photography, textiles, marble sculpture,” Rossiter said. “We only wish people had been able to see it by now.”
The exhibit was scheduled to run from March 13-25 at the Finch Lane Gallery at Reservoir Park in Salt Lake City. The art began arriving on March 9, just as news about the pandemic was heating up.
“Even then, we had a sense of what might be coming and tried to practice social distancing as we received the works,” Rossiter said.
Work to organize and hang the show continued until March 12, when Gov. Gary Herbert issued an order limiting the size of gatherings and, combined with Salt Lake City and county orders, effectively shut Finch Lane down.
“Since then, the show has been waiting, unappreciated, for six weeks — except for the time [Salt Lake Arts Council’s visual arts and community outreach manager] Sarah [Hobin] had to go in to take a look to see if anything was damaged during the earthquake,” Rossiter said. “There were a couple of things that were skewampus, but, fortunately, other than that it was all OK.”
Rossiter, Hobin and only a handful of other people have seen the exhibit. Not even the participating artists have seen their work on display.
“I wasn’t surprised to hear that it was on hold, since at that point everything was,” said Megan Geilman, a selected artist who creates photographic and digital compositions. “But I did have to grieve a little. … I felt like this show was a chance to really break into the Salt Lake art scene and I’m just a little downhearted feeling like it’s not going to be the same opportunity.”
“It was definitely disappointing,” Rossiter said. “I mean, anytime you do a lot of hard work and get ready to show it to the world, and then it doesn’t happen — that’s disappointing.”
The opening gala, the artists’ reception and the awards ceremony have all been canceled. There may not be any awards this time — past shows have included jurors’ awards and a people’s choice award. “I’m not sure what, if anything, we’ll do this year,” Rossiter said.
“But everybody took it pretty much in stride. Part of that was that, at the beginning, we didn’t know how long this would last. And we all held out hope that we’d be able to see it.”
And, Hobin said, it was “a strange installation.”
“As we were putting the finishing touches on the exhibition, we were tuned into local and national updates regarding the pandemic,” she said. “Despite knowing that we wouldn’t be able to open when we had intended to, we were hopeful that we’d be able to open sometime during the run of the exhibition.”
Not during the original dates. The exhibit was scheduled to close March 24, and the Finch Lane Gallery remains closed more than a month after that. But because of the pandemic, other exhibits have been postponed and the 35x35 show has been extended through June 5.
“Right now, we’re assuming that people will be able to come in and see it,” Rossiter said. “We’re not sure exactly how that will work, but we think it will.”
“I have high hopes that the show will be able to open at some point, even if only for a short period of time,” Kyle said.
Hobin said that the Salt Lake Arts Council, which operates Finch Lane, is “developing a reopening plan for the gallery.” Limiting the number of people allowed in, mandating social distancing and requiring face masks are all under consideration.
“We want to make sure we’re following requirements when reopening, and continue to prioritize the health of our staff and the public,” she said.
And plans are already underway for a second show featuring the same 35x35 artists — 15 Bytes is working with the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art on an exhibition this summer.
“The earliest it would be open is probably July 1,” Rossiter said. “We will take these 35 artists and curate a new work that they’ve done recently.”
“I think that artists are ... usually pretty good at making the best of not-so-great situations,” said Art Morrill, one of the 35x35 artists, who creates multimedia works and installations. “To see what everyone has been doing during this unprecedented time is sure to be really interesting.”
Another participating artist, conceptual photographer Kei Ito, said that the second show “gives me a prospect of showing something that comes out of both the personal and collective trauma we are facing today.”
Rossiter expects that Ito won’t be the only artist to draw from the pandemic experience, but he won’t ask them to do so.
“I imagine there will be works about the coronavirus and about isolation and things like that, but we’re not going to ask the artists to pigeonhole themselves like that. When curators ask them to make art in response to a specific thing, it usually seems it’s not as good as whatever is happening within their own world.”
FOOD DISTRIBUTION AT FINCH LANE GALLERY
The Salt Lake City Arts Council is partnering with the Salt Lake Education Foundation to operate the Finch Lane Gallery to distribute food to those in need. Beginning this week, can drive or walk to the gallery at 54 Finch Lane (1340 E. 100 South) and pick up groceries on Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., or until supplies run out. All are welcome — no questions asked.