The Tree of Utah


An abstract artistic sculpture called Metaphor: The Tree of Utah stands of the edge of I-80 on the barren Bonneville Salt Flats west of Salt Lake City.

Swedish artist Karl Momen created the 87-foot high tree between 1982-1986. He financed the project himself to bring bold color and beauty to the stark, flat, salty landscape. The sculpture is made of 225 tons of cement, almost 2,000 ceramic tiles and five tons of welding rod, and tons of minerals and rocks native to Utah.

Also called the "Tree of Life," the sculpture is located on the north side of I-80 about 95 miles west of Salt Lake City (25 miles east of Wendover). The location is interesting because the harsh environment here hindered many travelers in pioneer times. Members of the ill-fated Donner Party were tragically delayed in this area before their awful demise in the Sierra Nevada mountains. During WWII, the crew of the Enola Gay practiced bombing runs over the Great Salt Lake Desert before proceeding to Hiroshima to end the war.

After completing his work Momen returned to Sweden, donating the sculpture to the state of Utah.

Art Critic Katherine Metcalf used these words to sum up the project: "...Like Kandinsky in the 1920s, so Momen in the 1980s combines his love of color, circles, and cosmic space in a personal hymn to the universe; and like Kandinsky, he is very 'romantic' and musical. The inscription on the trunk of the tree is Schiller's Ode to Joy, as sung in the choral climax of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."

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