The “Here and Elsewhere” exhibition, located at the Institut d’art contemporain, Villeurbanne, France.

Art exhibit in France depicts Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The “Here and Elsewhere” exhibition, located at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Villeurbanne, France. (Thomas Lannes courtesy of Paul Gabrielsen, St. George News)

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ST. GEORGE – An echo of southern Utah resonates in European art galleries, where a replica of a geological wonder is on display that reflects both the look and the scientific underpinnings of a Utah National Monument .

What looks like a random scattering of rocks on the floor of a gallery in France is actually far from random – it’s a painstakingly crafted replica of an area inside the Grand Escalier-Escalante National Monument , created with the collaboration of a geologist from the University of Utah.

In an email to St. George News, Paul Gabrielsen, a research and communications specialist at the University of Utah, said the exhibit, titled “Here and Elsewhere,” used rocks from clay fired to represent dark spherical concretions, also called Moqui marbles, which form when iron-rich water percolates through sandstone. With color and texture like avocado, they erode from the sandstone, coming together like pebbles in naturally sculpted patterns.

“While it seems unusual to link a contemporary European art museum to the wilderness of Utah, that’s part of the exhibit’s purpose,” Gabrielsen said in the email.


If it seems unusual to make a connection between a museum of contemporary European art and the wilderness of Utah, it is part of the interest of the exhibition.

–Paul Gabrielsen, University of Utah


Gabrielsen said artist Irene Kopelman was inspired by the connection between geological features found by the two robotic explorers on Mars and those studied by University of Utah professor Marjorie Chan on Earth. And this opportunity allowed Chan to learn more about a distant place by studying something close to home.

Read the full story on St. George News.

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