Salt desert tree
Artist leaves mark in Utah desert
By Fereydoun Hoveyda
September 25, 2000
Art work here
If you happen to drive toward Reno on U.S. Interstate Highway 80, across
western Utah's Salt Falls Desert, in the blurred horizon you will notice
a curious shivering structure . No, it is not a mirage. As you approach
, the mysterious object gains focus. With its slim and long cement base
topped with six variously sized and colored spheres, it evokes some kind
of a giant tropical plant.
What you will be looking at is actually an 83-feet-high, tree-like sculpture
weighing some 90 tons, visible for 30 miles in all directions. It stands
in the middle of a barren, whitish desert of sand and salt, just east of
the Nevada borde, 100 miles west of the city of Tooele. It is called "Metaphor
or the Tree of Life".
The "tree" was created and donated to the State of Utah by
a well-known Swedish architect and artist of Persian origin : Karl (Karim)
Momen who was born and brought up near Mashhad .
Momen explained that in 1981, while driving to Reno across the Salt
Flats on I-80 , he stopped for a stroll, when inspiration dawned on him:
"There I saw off in the distance this image of a gigantic tree with
big round spheres resembling planets." Momen has always been intrigued
with astronomy. His "tree" represents, in a way, the universe
which we are all a definite part .
The sculpture was unveiled in 1986 in the presence of the Governor of
Utah and the Swedish Minister of Labor. The "tree" is a beautiful
artistic achievemnent; a wonderful example of what members of the Iranian
diaspora can create around the world when their creative freedom is not
crushed and stifled by a repressive environment.
Momen studied architecture in Germany from 1958 to 1962 . At the same
time he studied fine arts at Stuttgart's Kunstakademie .
In 1962 he became a Swedish citizen and worked for a number of years
as an artichect . He cooperated with Le Corbusier , the world famous architect
who revolutionized construction of houses .
Since the late eighties, Momen has devoted all of his time to his art
(sculpture and paintings ), working part of the year in California and
the remainder in Sweden. He has had many collective exhibitions (New York
Metropolitan Museum, Miami Art Center, Stokholm Modern Museum, etc) as
well as one-man shows (Striped House Museum in Tokyo , the Cultural Center
in Berlin, and a great number of galleries in Paris , Stokholm , New York
, Monaco, etc.)
As Herman Du Toit, curator of Brigham Young University Museum of Art,
wrote in 1995 :
"Momen is the product of a unique synthesis of cosmopolitan influences
that range from his childhood memories of miniature paintings to the seminal
experience of studying under some of the most significant artists of the
modernist movement in Europe His abstract images are a combination of Persian
and Western perspectives ; the quest for spiritual transcendence through
contemplation of ideal form , grafted with the modernist concern with formalism
and the expressive intent of the artist. This confluence of modernist aesthetics
and Persian spiritual currents imbue Momen's geometric abstractions with
an iconic character that is echoed in their uncompromising frontality and
by the metallic luster of carefully patterned brushstrokes "
In 1998 , Momen produced a series of paintings in homage to William
Shakespeare and Richard Wagner, one can contemplate in a book published
by "Homage to the Classics Foundation".
Click on images to see larger photos