Its description as a secret sculpture garden was even an understatement. So secret, in fact, that even after his death in 1963, many of Thomas Child's neighbors were unaware of the existence of this unusual collection of 12 sculptures and over 70 engraved stones located in a residential section of Salt Lake City.
Child began his work on Gilgal Garden in 1945 when he was 57 years old. "Gilgal" is an Old Testament word that means "circle of sacred stones." Child spent the last 18 years of his life building a circle of stones in his yard, but many of his "stones" are huge--weighing up to 62 tons!
With Child's words in mind, we toured the garden. He hoped the garden would inspire viewers to ponder "the unsolved mysteries of life" and struggle to find their own answers.
Here ("Captain of the Lord's Host") the head of the captain who appeared to Joshua with a plan to assure the Israelites victory over Jericho was simply a pitted rock with the explanation that "it is sometimes more potent to suggest and cause wonderment than to explain in detail."
I would venture to say that we experienced "wonder-ment" as we viewed "The Sphinx," which represents Child's belief that the answers to life's great questions cannot be discovered with the intellect, but only through faith. The face is that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) founder Joseph Smith.
"The Monument to the Trade" is a tribute to Child's "superb masonry workmanship. The flagstones in the walls were cut by hand and meticulously laid with perfectly even joints."
Sculptor Maurice Brooks created the statue of Child. Unique to this figure are his brick pants.
Two granite cutters worked on the lettering of the "Testi-mony of Job." When the lettering was completed, lead was poured into the half-inch deep letters. An oxyacetylene torch is embedded in the stone.
"The Monument to Peace" is Child's representa-tion of the well-known verse
"...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks...."
This next display consists of four books, an arch, a spire, and a purple boulder. Child planned to carve the large boulder as a globe and place it on the top of the books.
The four books (below) represent the standard scriptures used by the LDS Church: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
This magnificent arch was the object of our extended viewing time.
The tall spire represents the LDS Priesthood, and
atop the spire is a wire sculpture of the Angel Moroni.
In "The Last Chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes," Child's representation of the head of an old man (below) symbolized his interpretation of early verses: "In spite of ourselves we get sick, weak, and die, and are not the masters of the situation." Another verse states:
"...and the grasshopper (right) shall be a burden."
(Remember our earlier reference to the sense of wonderment Child was hoping inspire in his viewers? Read on.)
Here in "Daniel 11: Nebuchad-nezzar's Dream," Child portrays the shattered giant from the King's dream--breast and arms of silver (left in the photo above), legs (center above) and feet of iron (right in the photo above) and
head of gold (top in the photo above and in the photo on the left).
Well aware that many people thought Gilgal Garden was strange, Child still hoped they would accept its challenge. "You don't have to agree with me," he explained. "You may think I am a nut, but I hope I have aroused your thinking and curiosity."
Now a state park, Gilgal Garden has the distinction of being the only identified
"visionary art environment" in Utah.