There are no trees, except for one, standing tall as a colorful sentinel in this vast expanse of white salt. Karl Momen, an artist now living in Sweden, envisioned and created the Tree of Life. He donated the 87 foot tall sculpture to our state and thus became The Tree of Utah.
Photo by randomfactor
Why would an artist from Europe donate a million dollar sculpture to Utah? Let’s go back to when he was a 15 year old painter, living in Iran. He was commissioned to paint a six foot high official portrait of Stalin. Some years later when Communism was denounced and the Shah of Iran was returned to power, Momen watched as his portrait of Stalin was trampled underfoot. Ironically, he was commissioned to paint a 12 foot high portrait of the Shah of Iran. When the Shah was denounced, Momen watched on television as troop carriers rolled over this portrait in the street.
As a renegade in the art world, I believe he needed his own memorial that would withstand the test of time. When he stopped his car on the Bonneville Salt Flats to add a pinch of salt to his lunch of tomatoes, he saw what seemed like an alien panorama. That night he dreamt about “adding a focus of color in this endless expanse of featureless terrain.”
Photo by F. Tronchin
The concrete sculpture’s tree trunk holds up six spheres, coated with natural rock and minerals that were mined and cut in southern Utah. Near the base are several hollow sphere segments that symbolize the changing of the seasons.
Not being very artistic, I keep seeing a pole with tennis balls stuck on top. What do you see? Recently, an ugly metal fence was reportedly added to protect people from falling leaves (aka corroding cement). I think it was meant to stop the graffiti artists from marring Karl Momen’s dream.
Photo by c_nilsen
Parking on the shoulder of the Interstate is technically illegal, since there isn’t an exit ramp by the Tree of Utah. A visitor’s center was proposed by Karl Momen, but is waiting for donations to cover construction costs. Should you decide to stop, you probably won’t get a ticket. I wouldn’t know, since my law abiding husband refuses to take that chance every time we drive by.