Monday, November 28, 2011

Tree of Utah (Metaphor)

Karl Momen created a 87 foot high minimalist sculpture in the West Desert of Utah. In the broad expanse of the salt flats, the only vertical element for miles is this Tree.

I saw the tree many times driving through the Salt Flats to California where I was going to graduate school. But the first time I actually stopped to look at it close up was about 10 years ago. That was when you could actually walk right up to it. Now, it is surrounded by a fence. It was always a marker for us as we drove. We knew we were almost to Nevada when we saw the Tree.

The Tree of Utah was created in 1986 and has a plaque on it with a quote that looks like it is from Karl Momen. Many places say it is from Schiller's Ode to Joy, as sung in the choral climax of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, but I could not find these words in Ode to Joy to save my life. So, I think it is a perpetuated myth.

“A hymn to our universe, whose glory and dimension is beyond all myth and imagination.”

The Tree itself is made of concrete, crushed rocks, and tile. It is in bad repair right now but I heard rumors that the state was trying to raise money to restore it. It is overseen by State Parks and Recreation and not the Utah Arts Council as one would assume.

Many people do not like this sculpture. I am partial to Minimalist art and do like it but I have to admit it is not my favorite work. But as part of the landscape of the Great Salt Lake, it is intriguing. I would love to play with the shapes and colors to knit something whimsical.


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  2. The beauty of the open road, the impermanence of all things, entropy, time, wind and rain and sky. I am glad I found this sculpture thirty-three years after Mr. Momen completed it. Thank you. D.

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