Monday, December 10, 2007


I drive. Drive to Las Vegas sometimes. Drive to California from time to time. Drive to Utah often. Now that my home is in Northern Nevada rather than the southern city of sin we so loved, my frequent trek to Ma n’ Pa’s place meets the mammoth and eccentric ball sculpture aside the 26th mile marker along the salt flats.

Prior to my version of the standard belligerent high school years, I was passenger on plenty voyages over the river and through the woods to grandmothers’ houses. On the trips westward via I-80, the family van zipped by a strange sculpture—a towering tree made of balls, standing solitary in amid the salt flats, and when I was twelve it was something to gape at, but no more than that. Now, the sculpture is my monument to memory.

Before our Sparks relocation, I’d forgotten about the sculpture, but on my maiden solo expedition to Utah from the Reno locale I passed said art work and a flood of memories filled with many-hour sing-a-longs and tricks to try to avoid wearing a seatbelt for 12 hours rushed my brain. Now, securely seatbelted in and listening to NPR and books on CD, it’s a quirk of the drive I look forward to and a landmark to times previously overlooked. And, until now, it was a curiosity. I say “until now” because I’ve just taken the initiative to google the unique piece and here’s what I turned up:

Swedish artist Karl Momen created the 87-foot high tree [entitled: Metaphor: The Tree of Utah] 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 . . .

. . . 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."
(courtesy of


cat+tadd=sam said...

Awww, that explains it all!

Jaime Stephens said...

the things you learn from Megans blog

M to the E to the R to the I said...

MEGAN! I am SO glad you looked this up! 7 years ago My mom and I drove by that on our way to San Fran and I was freaking out! I wanted to get a pic, but it was way too windy. It has always been in the back of my mind! And last time I drove that way it was Dark, so I could not get a pic then. Long story short, I am grateful that you took the time to google it. I thought it was an Alien tree, sent here to haunt my subconscious mind. Whew.