In Memoriam | Visual Arts

Darl Thomas: 1950-2024

Portrait of an older man with white hair and mustache, wearing a dark gray shirt, standing in a workshop with tools and equipment behind him.

Darl Thomas in his Salt Lake City studio. Courtesy of the artist.

Darl Thomas, a celebrated metal sculptor, passed away on June 5, 2024, at the age of 74, in his Salt Lake City home. Known for his unique and impeccably crafted metal sculptures, Thomas leaves behind a legacy marked by creativity, precision, and a deep connection to both his craft and community.

Born and raised in the Ballpark neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Thomas was one of six siblings. His early years were filled with a mix of typical teenage pursuits, including his passion for music. He attended South High School where he enjoyed band, playing drums in a garage band called “The Rooks.”

Despite his initial interest in architecture at the University of Utah, Thomas quickly shifted his focus to art, finding his true medium in metal sculpting. He studied under and later collaborated with Richard Johnston, who encouraged Thomas to continue his studies at Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan.

It was at Cranbrook that he met his future wife, Ivana, a fellow artist. The couple married in a simple ceremony at Darl’s parents’ home and settled in Salt Lake City, where Thomas’s career as a sculptor flourished. As Thomas recounted in a 2018 article for 15 Bytes, his relationship with Ivana could evoke jealousy in other men.

Metallic sculpture with a spherical element on top, situated in front of a modern building with tall windows and decorative columns, surrounded by a landscaped garden.

One of a pair of sculptures entitled “Plane and Sphere” that stands outside the Scott M. Matheson Court Building in Salt Lake City. Like many of his public art sculptures, “Plane and Sphere” is illuminated during the night.

Throughout his career, Thomas was known for his highly skilled craftsmanship. His proficiency as a machinist and welder allowed him to create sculptures that were both structurally sound and artistically compelling. His work often drew inspiration from industrial forms, a fascination that can be traced back to his early exposure to a steel fabricating company. His ability to transform raw metal into intricate, dynamic pieces earned him numerous public art commissions across Utah.

One of Thomas’ more notable projects was the ATK Memorial Sculpture in Corinne, Utah, commissioned to honor those who lost their lives at the ATK Rocket Plant. This project was particularly significant for Thomas, who was an avid admirer of the space program and astronomy. His sculptures often reflected celestial themes, his polished metal surfaces designed to reflect the sun at different parts of the day.

Close-up view of a modern metallic sculpture with angled beams extending upwards against a clear blue sky.

Created in 2000 for the South Towne Expo Center, “16 Triangles” is, in the words of the artist, “… a reflection of many elements we see daily, including construction cranes, electrical transmission towers, and mountains. These elements define progress, technology and beauty.” Image by Shawn Rossiter.


Modern metallic sculpture with cylindrical and rectangular elements, framed by leafy tree branches against a partly cloudy sky.

Created in 2001 for the Park City Transit Hub, Darl Thomas’ “Thalia” is one among seven sculptures by Utah artists representing the Greek muses. Image by Shawn Rossiter.

Thomas’ contributions to public art are evident throughout Utah, from Ogden to Ephraim. One of his personal favorites was the Plane and Sphere pair of sculptures at the Matheson Courthouse, which he enjoyed seeing during his drives up State Street. Additionally, his designs for the Trax Power Station showcased his long-standing admiration for power line towers and generators, blending utility with art in a seamless manner.

Beyond his professional achievements, Thomas was a beloved figure in his community. His studio was a gathering space for friends and he always seemed to have the twinkle of a smile beneath his bushy mustache. He was an avid bird watcher and he and Ivana enjoyed hiking and camping together. The couple helped create Wasatch Hollow Park, located near their home in the 15th and 15th neighborhood, where one of Thomas’ sculptures lies embedded in the ground for the errant wanderer to discover.

Friends are invited to a celebration of his life will be held on July 18, 2024, at Starks Funeral Parlor.

Darl Thomas’ “Windwheel #9,” located west of the Salt Lake International Airport, makes the invisible (the wind) visible as the sculpture slowly rotates with the breeze. Captured here reflecting the sun on the summer solstice. Image by Shawn Rossiter.

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3 replies »

  1. Everyone who has known and worked with Darl has great memories. He is the essence of thoughtfulness, talent, teamwork, and meticulous craftsmanship. I was fortunate to work with Darl when he was the SLC Arts Council project manager for the public art program and for the public art projects at the first TRAX stations. So sad to think of him gone, and so happy to have been able to spend precious times with him and Ivana.

  2. What a beautifully written and comprehensive tribute to a manifestly valued and valuable artist I did not know enough about. Darl Thomas was a fascinating man who will clearly be missed. Thank you for this.

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