SALT LAKE CITY — Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto looks at salt differently than most people.
He spends several hours a day painstakingly arranging salt to make intricate designs.
"I think he has a connection, a very special connection with salt," Jaimi Butler said. Butler is a biologist with the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College. One wouldn't expect a scientist to hire an artist. Butler explained the idea was to give students a different way of looking at a mineral they work with every day. "Salt is very important to people that study the Great Salt Lake," Butler said. "It's a fun intersection of art and science. We tend to think of art and science as two separate disciplines." Yamamoto's "Return to the Sea: Saltworks" features two pieces in Utah — a large, circular labyrinth sits on the first floor of the science building at Westminster College, and a more swirl-shaped design is inside the Shaw Gallery at Weber State University. Yamamoto spent about seven days on each work and used hundreds of pounds of salt. "It's simple, but it's very powerful," said Matt Choberka, chairman of Weber State's Department of Visual Arts. "To be able to come in here and see the simplest material, salt out of a squeeze bottle, and to create this very magnificent thing is, I think, it's very instructive for everybody." While building his salt pieces, Yamamoto often reflects on his sister who died from cancer, he said. During his time in Utah, he became a part of each exhibit. Employees at each school keep watch over the salt art, making sure the pieces aren't damaged. "You worry about the wind coming through the door sometimes," Choberka said. "The thought of somebody walking across it or somebody dropping their cellphone on it gives me stress and anxiety," Butler said, describing her appreciation for the work. On April 12, both art pieces will be ceremoniously swept up and returned to the Great Salt Lake. The two schools are coordinating activities around the event. "I've been planning what I want to do," Butler said. "Do I want to run across it first? Do I want to do a salt angel? I mean, there's a lot of planning involved with how we're going to sweep it up."