Students exploring the water in the Great Salt Lake Website
Past Event

Return to the Sea - Saltworks 

by Motoi Yamamoto 


  Photo: Bellvue Arts Museum

   Photo: Hakone Open Air Museum


  • In March 2014 Japanese Artist Motoi Yamamoto visited Salt Lake City to create a temporary salt installation in the Meldrum Science Center at Westminster College. At the conclusion of the installation viewing period the saltworks was swept up and the salt returned to Great Salt Lake at Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.  
  • Yamamoto’s installation works resemble raging seas, byzantine labyrinths, geography of a flattened brain or staircases to the heavens, but if you zoom in you will find they are nothing more than a remarkably common commodity, table salt. Yamamoto’s saltworks are similar to the style of Tibetan Sand Mandalas, an expansive floor display of colored sand that is ceremoniously destroyed after completion to demonstrate the transitory nature of non-metaphysical life. These dramatic and expansive works are painstakingly piped by hand, enjoyed briefly and then swept away. Like life, Yamamoto’s works are more wondrous because of their impermanence.    


 Photo: Hakone Open Air Museum


 Photo: Hakone Open Air Museum

March 10 – 18, 2014: 

         Residency and Installation (Meldrum Science Center)

March 17, 2014:

         Reception (Emma Eccles Jones Conservatory)

March 10 – April 12, 2014:

         Public viewing (Meldrum Science Center)

          Monday-Friday 9am - 8pm and weekends 9am - 6pm

April 10, 2014:

           Panel Discussion on Salt (Gore School of Business Auditorium) Learn More 

April 12, 2014:

         Return to the “Sea” at Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (Great Salt Lake) Learn More


About the Artist

Motoi Yamamoto was born in Onomichi, Hiroshima in 1966 where he spent the first part of his life working at a dock yard. In 1995 he earned his B.A. Kanazawa College of Art with an emphasis in oil painting. While he was in school his sister passed away from brain cancer, and stricken with grief he turned from oil paints to the Japanese’ symbolic element of cleansing, salt. Each installation is a memorial to the memory of his sister. Since then he has gone to be an acclaimed artist winning

the Philip Morris Art Award in 2002. In 2012 he published an anthology of his
saltworks titled Return to the Sea. 

GSLI would like to thank our generous sponsors for making this event possible:

  • Bing and Judy Fang
  • Preston Chairo
  • Steven G. and Susan E. Denkers Family Foundation