Salvation Mountain

Entertainment & Arts

North America, United States, Imperial County

Salvation Mountain is a colorful art installation covering much of a small hill north of Calipatria, California, near Slab City and just several miles from the Salton Sea. It is made from adobe, straw, and thousands of gallons of paint. It was created by Leonard Knight to convey the message "God Is Love." Another of Leonard's expressions "Keep It Simple" refers back to his message of universal love. Knight refused substantial donations of money and labor from supporters who wished to modify his message of universal love to favor or disfavor particular groups. Steps cut into the side of the hill (Leonard calls them the "Yellow Brick Road") lead to the summit, which is topped by a cross. Salvation Mountain also features many large straw bale and adobe walls supported by a matrix of logs enclosing several cave-like spaces. Knight lives full-time at the site in a small cabin mounted on the rear of a 1930s-vintage Chevrolet two-ton truck. Like Salvation Mountain, Knight's "Salvation Truck" and a collection of other vehicles and machinery are entirely covered with paint and Biblical quotes. He estimates that more than 100,000 gallons of paint have gone into the creation of the mountain and that every California-based paint manufacturer has donated paint to the project. Visitors are gifted post cards depicting the mountain and copies of a documentary about Leonard and his mountain. Friendly and accessible, Leonard welcomes visitors to Slab City and Salvation Mountain and gladly accepts donations of both labor and acrylic paint."This thing is really catching on!" he often exclaims to visitors. Once labeled an environmental hazard, the hill was threatened with removal by Imperial County. In recent years, the furor seems to have died down and the project has been likened to an epic work of folk art comparable to the Watts Towers. Although the project is an unauthorized one on state land, Salvation Mountain was placed under protection in 2002 when Senator Barbara Boxer entered it into the Congressional Record as a national treasure.