A project that started in the 60's inspired by air balloons and failed attempts continues to this day. Leonard Knight's "Salvation Mountain" is a religious monument made from adobe, hay, thousands of gallons of paint, and pure devotion.
As an artist, Salvation Mountain is incredibly inspiring to me for so many reasons. Leonard Knight was originally inspired by a hot air balloon passing over his small town in Vermont to spread God's word of love. He set off to make his own hot air balloon from donated and collected scraps of fabric while he traveled across country; a white one with red letters reading "God is love". This patchwork balloon unsurprisingly refused to fly; once a repair was done another flaw was found. Soon Leonard Knight was left with a heap of ragged, decaying fabric with jagged stitches in the desert of southern California. Faced with this failure many people would simply abandon the idea and walk away, but not Leonard.
Equipped with a few bags of concrete and some junk from the nearby Slab City, Leonard began working on a mountain. His resources were scarce, so he added a lot of sand to his concrete and was reserved with his use of paint. This mountain grew to about 50 feet tall, adorned with patchwork colors and a big red letters on a white background that read "God is Love" above the Sinners Prayer and a small red heart. After 4 years of work this site succumbed to the elements and toppled over. This was not a failure to Leonard; He thanked God for warning him that his mountain was not safe and set off to build a new one... this time with "more smarts".
After learning about the abundant adobe clay in the area he set off to build a new mountain using adobe and hay. This time he was not reserved with his use of paint from generous donors to seal in his structure. The adobe is coated with many coats of paint, he used the "uglier" colors as base colors in abundance, and saved the prettier colors as a topcoat. Leonard kept working on Salvation Mountain and the "museum" up until his death.
This "museum" is a tribute to his original hot air ballon. This structure is similar to the mountain, but it is going to be a dome shaped structure held up by "trees" and will tell the story of Salvation Mountain, from the balloon, to the first mountain, to the legal issues, and hopefully more and more history will be added to this ever growing monument.
Being here is surreal; the technicolor mountain glistens in the hot desert sun. There are people walking around the site and climbing up the mountain on the yellow path. There is also a team of people working on Salvation Mountain; the constant sun and wind takes a toll of the site so it requires constant upkeep, not to mention the ongoing work on the Museum. Inside the Museum is otherworldly with all the colors swirling around you and the "trees" holding up the balloon shaped dome. There are photographs and articles behind pieces of old car windows imbedded in the adobe that tell the story of Salvation Mountain. The actual mountain is overwhelming; with the nature scenes, biblical verses, vivid colors, and so on. There are also 2 old trucks that sit in front of Salvation Mountain. Each is painted similarly to the mountain with the motif of bluebirds, bible verses and flowers. The one that sits closer to the mountain is where Leonard lived his years on site, the other is the truck he would ride into town and use in parades.
Salvation Mountain is not just a testament to a man's devotion to his religion, but also a devotion to his idea. Leonard Knight never let his failures stop him, he used everything to his disposal, and he did everything in his power to make his ideas become real.
If you would like to learn more about Salvation Mountain please visit this website: http://www.salvationmountain.us
more to come,