Edward Fausty: a Fragile Utopia







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A Fragile Utopia:

Studios and Spaces at 111 First Street


The project began in 2001 when I started to imagine a time when the artists and small businesses at 111 First Street, formerly the Old Gold cigarette factory in Jersey City, would have to make way for occupants more like those in the surrounding downtown areas of Newport and Exchange Place, with their hotels, condos and corporate headquarters. The thought of this cycle coming to a close without somehow recording it was unpleasant.

While not always pretty or comfortable, the lively and unpredictable 111 environment was precious in part for those very reasons; it was a bonafide community center without institutional trappings or bureaucracy, hosting thousands of visitors each year; a cheap place that offered complete freedom to nearly 200 artists, many of whom forsook the normal nine-to-five routine and the usual comforts of home. A living art museum with beautiful, if raw, gallery space, open working studios, and free admission, it was almost too good to be true. This was made more poignant as it disappeared, to the disappointment of residents and supporters who came not just from nearby New Jersey, but far and wide.

This work of snooping and photographing around studios and other parts of the 111 building (with permission, of course) was a way for me to contemplate a unique lifestyle; how creative people on a limited budget make their homes/studios from scratch in an industrial environment; how their work evolves behind the scenes; how the old industrial world looks next to the suurounding new world of prefab; all this with the spectre of possible eviction lurking.






After a protracted battle with a billionaire landlord, the last remaining artists agreed to vacate the building; but not before helping the community win, for the warehouse district, municipal historic protection and a redevelopment plan ensuring an arts district while still allowing appropriate development; or so we thought....


After our diaspora, the landlord somehow managed to use his influence to overturn much of what had been accomplished by concerned citizens and public officials. And now the survival of a real arts district is in doubt.

This saga is, of course, not unique to our building; battles like this occur in many communities between speculative absentee landowners/ developers and the local citizens impacted by their projects. As a close observer of this scene, it is not my intention to indict. Rather, I would like more people to begin to think about these inevitable tensions and to find fair and productive ways of resolving them. Certainly people who own property have rights to develop it, and just as certainly communities have rights to try to manage their own destiny.

A story about an address named 111 First Street is for me irresistable. It is an address that represents all addresses. It is a center point, and like many mythical center points, it is a scene of conflict and of drama, pointing to primal and existential issues of territory.

The images in this project were all made on medium format color film and then scanned and output, in my studio, onto beautiful Arches rag paper using pigmented digital inkjet technology. The prints come in two sizes: 23" square and the large 42"x48" size. This medium has been so satisfying as a way to appreciate not only the significance of what I witnessed, but its special beauty as well.  














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                Windows and Watertank Support, 111 First Street, Jersey City, NJ                                                                 Warren's Lair, Jersey City, NJ                            Rooftop Plumbing, 111 First Street, Jersey City, NJ                        Looking NW from 111 First Street, Jersey City, NJ                               Long Room, Landes/Sullivan Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                    White Elephant outside Ens/Sloan Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                       Dream Time, Nancy Wells Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                             Hanging Lithographs, Tomomi Ono Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                          Art Machine, Kelly Darr Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                          Art Paraphinalia, Elizabeth Onorato Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                              Creatures, William Rodwell Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                             Bill's Bed, William Rodwell Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                Hallway View at 111, Jersey City, NJ                             Sleeping Dog, Lowenstein/Malak Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                             Happy and Sad Figures, Rebecca Goyette Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                              Catacombs, Reuben Kadish Foundation at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                         111 First Street and Environs, Jersey City, NJ                                        Petrified Brush, Vadim Stain Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                Mangled Door, Demolition Begins at 111, Jersey City, NJ                            Infinite Rolodex, Nancy-Jo Johnson Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                           Demolition Leavings at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                           Taking Down the Water Closet at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                    Demolition Begins at 110 First Street, Jersey City, NJ                                                                                       Historic Landmark: Ain't I Pretty, 110 1st St., Jersey City, NJ                                                                            Survivors of a Flood, Shandor Hassan Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                                                    Mother and Children , Nancy Wells Studio at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                                                Marked for Demolition at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                                                                                   Toilet, Riser and Decor at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                                                                                            Implied Wall, Demolition at 111, Jersey City, NJ                                                                                               Miro Outlets, Demolition at 111, Jersey City, NJ