Art Lake City | In Plain Site

Cut Metal Provides an Artistic Alternative for Public Murals

Details from Karl Hale’s cut metal mural on the outside of Murray City Hall features elements from the city’s history . Image credit: Geoff Wichert.

Murals — works of art executed directly on walls — brought about the foundation of art as we understand it: meant to be shared by the public. Cave paintings dating back as much as 40,000 years were discovered and admired anew by modern eyes. Egyptians not only carved and painted walls, but wrapped murals around giant pillars that define the spaces in their temples. As part of the restoration of the fire-damaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the medieval wall art will reappear, while non-representational tile geometry brings new admirers to Muslim shrines. Here in America, threatened wildlife is recalled not only on painted buildings, but sculpted on public fountains and transportation hubs. 15 Bytes tracks neighborhood mural collections in an online map that enables enthusiasts to follow their growth.

Most familiar murals are painted, with aerosol can or brush, but from time to time alternatives come along. Just this week, in Rome, a mural from the very beginning of the Empire was found beneath a building that was constructed to obliterate it when the owner fell out of favor with Augustus, the first Emperor. This truly mixed-media work uses media ranging from Buon Fresco — executed on wet plaster — to sand coating and tile, which probably accounts for its having survived in almost perfect shape after 2,000 years of neglect and abuse. Likewise, among the scores of painted murals in the Salt Lake City area you’ll find the exceptions, made from alternate materials, like cut steel bolted to brick walls.

Created in 2016, Mark Hofeling and Christian England’s “10,000 Years of Labor in Utah” was one of the first public art murals in a neighborhood quickly becoming known for such features. Image credit: Geoff Wichert.

On the Central 9th Local Market building, at 161 West 900 S (Corner of South Jefferson St, by the foot of the West Temple exit from I-15), Mark Hofeling and Christian England’s “10,000 Years of Labor in Utah” runs the length of the north-facing wall. Cut from Cor-10 steel, known for rusting to a soft, red-brown hue that forms a protective patina, their relief sculpture explores and celebrates an in-depth history of human interaction with Utah resources. Mining, trapping, and manufacture play large parts in vignettes connected by various fences. Women prove themselves in wartime, while the ghost of Joe Hill appears alongside tools of his execution — five rifles and a cut-out of a heart. Splendid new sidewalks and easy parking offer viewers a chance to get out of their cars and study the complex work close up.

In Murray, meanwhile, the new City Hall building at 10 East 4800 South features a wall decorated with bright, shiny stainless steel. Here artist Karl Hale offers three layers, or “perspectives,” made up of interlocking positive and negative patterns of disks that suggest both landscape elements and bounding, civic energy. On closer approach, embossed icons and symbolic images appear in the circles. Hale says his sculptures “Attempt to merge intuitive, right-brained art and logical, left-brained science,” adding his hope that “people who identify with either end of that . . . find inspiration in my creations. And I hope that, in that process, a bit of their own unique genius finds a voice.”

Both these works are visible throughout the day, and each introduces evolving environs worth exploring.

Murray’s new City Hall was unveiled in the summer of 2023. Image credit: Geoff Wichert.


Karl Hale metal mural creates a flowing, shiny surface across the brick building. Image credit: Geoff Wichert.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.