Friday, September 17, 2010

Gilgal Garden

Yesterday, I took the girls to a very quirky garden downtown. Have any of you heard of the Gilgal Sculpture Garden? As bizarre as it is, I kind of fell in love with it, I can't get it out of my mind and I want to go back.

I was in the mood to see a garden yesterday so I googled Salt Lake City gardens and Gilgal is what I came up with. The online description said it had Mormon religious sculptures, most notably a Sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith. Weird but I was intrigued. As I was parking, I noticed a tattooed artsy guy get out of the car next to me. He was bring along some of his hipster friends and I asked if they were going to the garden. The guy was super excited and started to tell me all about the garden -- he had obvious love for the place. I'm guessing he is an artist himself. He explained that the Sculptor was a Mormon bishop who had built the place in his backyard and by some miracle had been saved from destruction after his death and had now been turned into this garden.

I guess when I read “Mormon religious sculptures” I had pictured the sweet mother and son ones that you find on Temple Square. This was nothing like that. It was random; definitely, Joseph Smith’s face on the Sphinx, random sculptures of hands, feet and human hearts, tablets with hymns and scriptures, and a shrine to the Sculptor’s wife. At first it was almost disconcerting but I as I walked around and read the inscriptions, I realized this was a man’s life work and he had pour everything important to him into this. There was something so raw and real about it. It is possibly the most sincere art I have ever beheld. Not created because the artist would receive money or fame, but just a genuine human need to communicate what was most meaningful to this man. It was beautiful.

The quirkiness reminded scupltures of Antoni Gaudi that I saw years ago in Barcelona. Like these ones from the roof of the Guell Palace.

But unlike the whimsical Guadi statues, there was the emotionally intensity you find in the religious works of the master's. I kept thinking of the rough unfinished Florentine Pieta. To me the fact that it is unfinished makes it all the more powerful, it is as if Michelangelo was just so emotionally drained he couldn't finish. The Gilgal works have that same quality.

I'm will definitely be visiting the Gilgal Garden again. Lots of my favorite art is very far away, it is pretty amazing to find something this thought provoking in your own backyard.