God is love … (and so is Leonard Knight)

Salvation Mountain – Leonard Knight

November 1, 1931 —
Niland, CA

Built: mid 1980s-present

 “…I still like to do it my way. I’m gonna make a lot of mistakes, but let me make ‘em.”
– Grassroots Art Center exhibit

 “Jesus, I am a sinner. Please come upon my body and into my heart.” – (October, 2006)

Leonard Knight spent five years in Nebraska sewing together a hot air balloon bearing the words “God Is Love.” The balloon grew so big, 100 metres high, that he was never able to get it off the ground. In 1986, he drove to the Mojave Desert in his dump truck with a house built on its back, tried flying the balloon there, failed again and gave up.

He decided to build a monument to God on a desert ridge instead. Carving and molding the surface, using thousands of gallons of donated paint, he covered hundreds of metres of the ridge with evangelical messages and decorations.

“God Is Love” flourished amidst fields of flowers and cascading waterfalls. After three years work the mountain collapsed but instead of quitting, Knight learned from his mistakes, switched from using heavy concrete to lighter adobe to shape the mountain, and started over again.

Knight’s home is his trailer, richly decorated in his distinctive style and emblazoned with messages of love. Leonard Knight has lived without electricity for 17 years.

In 1994 local officials declared the mountain a toxic nightmare and tried to tear it down. Knight fought back, and with the help of friends and admirers disproved the government’s claims. Today Salvation Mountain stands bigger than ever and Knight continues working on it, welcoming visitors by the hundreds from around the world.”

(Text is excerpted from “Fantasy Worlds” by Deidi Von Schaewen and John Maizels)

(Photos © Copyright 2006-2013 Kelly Ludwig, all rights reserved)

Bibliography & Links:

“Detour Art—Outsider, Folk Art, and Visionary Folk Art Environments Coast to Coast, Art and Photographs from the Collection of Kelly Ludwig” by Kelly Ludwig, Kansas City Star Books, 2007.

“Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations Coast to Coast Travel-o-Pedia” by Randy Mason, et. al., Kansas City Star Books, 2009.

On DVD – Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations, “Cali-Zona, Here We Come,” KCPT, Kansas City Public Television, 2007.

“American Folk Art, A Regional Reference” by Kristin G. Congdon and Kara Kelley Hallmark, ABC-CLIO Publishers, California, 2012.

“American Self-Taught Art: An Illustrated Analysis of 20th Century Artists and Trends with 1,319 Capsule Biographies” by Florence Laffal and Julius Laffal, 2003.

“Fantasy Worlds” by Deidi Von Schaewen and John Maizels, Taschen, New York, 1999.

“Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond” by John Maizels, Phaidon Press; New Ed edition, 1996, 2000.

“Self-Made Worlds: Visionary Environments” by Roger Manley and Mark Sloan, Aperture, New York, 1997.

Raw Vision Magazine 

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