Red Butte Garden is part of the University of Utah; it's a fairly new (started in the 1980s) botanical garden sited on a hillside overlooking the city. In Red Butte Garden There's a wonderful use of water throughout the gardens, with a variety of fountains, a babbling brook and a lovely pond. We saw an herb garden, a children's garden, a water pavilion with carp and ducks and big rainbow trout, a conifer garden, a fragrance garden, and more. The beautiful autumn colors more than made up for the fact that relatively few flowers were in bloom. We seem to be suckers for botanical gardens -- each one seems more beautiful than the last. We went in the morning, and it turns out to have been a good choice, because by the afternoon a rain squall passed through.
As we drove in to the parking lot we noted a striking sculpture of a stylized bird at the entrance. It was about twelve feet high, carved and polished out of stone, with it's large bill pointed up to the sky. It turned out to be part of an amazing exhibit of hundreds of pieces of stone sculpture from Zimbabwe, called Chapungu. Chapungu family group
You may have heard of Chapungu; we hadn't. There's about one exhibit each year, somewhere in the world. Over the past forty years there have been perhaps four or five exhibits in the U.S. - in Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis, and this exhibit in Salt Lake.
Most of the pieces we saw were huge; and represent the very finest works of these remarkable sculptors, some of whom are no longer living. The exhibit was from June to October, so we just caught the tail end - lucky us! Our pictures will have to tell the story better than our poor words. There was a wonderful variety, all the pieces were tremendously creative, beautifully carved, and with great emotional power. They represent the Zimbabwean people, their mythology and their gods. The art is exceptional - moving and dramatic. And we couldn't think of a more beautiful way to display the sculpture than in a garden. This allowed each of the works of art to occupy its own place surrounded by trees and shrubs and flowers. As we walked through the garden, each Chapungu figure turn of the path occasioned another Ooh or Ahh as we encountered yet another beautiful sculpture. Most of the pieces were mounted on huge tree trunks as pedestals.
The carvings, all done by hand, illustrate the remarkable properties of the native stone used by the artists. The outside of the stone has a brown varnish, from being exposed to the sun and elements for centuries. When this brownish exterior is chipped off, the natural colors - ranging from light gray to jet black, with some shades of cream or tan or green - are revealed. If the stone is then coarsely scratched, it gives the impression of thick ropes of hair; if it is more finely scratched, it approximates the appearance of a fabric; and if it is polished, it glows with a shiny warmth.
But the stone is just the sculptors' medium. The finished works of art were powerful expressions of Zimbabwean culture and society.
A number of Zimbabwean sculptors accompanied this exhibit of Chapungu; they sold some smaller carvings - all of them very beautiful - and gave demonstrations of their amazing artistry to the visitors.
Afterwards we marvelled over our serendipity in finding things to visit and admire, and have since recommended the exhibit to a number of Salt Lake City citizens.
Just type "Chapungu" on Google Images to see lots of examples of this sculpture.