Turning Stones into Sculptures

Child went to incredible lengths to obtain huge stones weighing up to 62 tons for his sculptures. He had great respect for the natural beauty of his materials. He traveled the state, scouring mountainsides and streambeds for “a boulder in which I could put over the idea and tell the story and still have it a stone.” Child often hired large trucks and heavy equipment to extract the stones and bring them to his yard.

Child had a complete workshop in his yard, including special equipment for handling and cutting the stone. He proudly stated that only raw materials were brought into the yard and all finish work was done on the site.

One of the most important artistic innovations in Gilgal Garden was Child’s use of an oxyacetylene torch, like those used to cut steel, for cutting stone. The heat of the torch removed the waste rock and fused the surface of the remaining stone, giving it a polished sheen. Child’s son-in-law and assistant, Bryant Higgs, was a skilled welder and pioneered this sculpting method.

Higgs taught well-known Utah sculptor Maurice Brooks to sculpt with the torch. Following Child’s careful instructions, Brooks carved features on several of Child’s works, including The Sphinx, The Monument to the Trade, Daniel II, Malachi, and The Last Chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Gilgal Garden is the only identified “visionary art environment” in Utah. These works of art are typically fabricated from found materials by people without formal artistic training to express a personal moral or religious conviction. A few visionary art environments, like Watts Towers in Los Angeles and the Orange Show in Houston, have gained acclaim. Most are little known and many are in danger of being destroyed.