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Mountain memorial

Salvation Mountain by Leonard Knight in Imperial County, CA. Photo: Chris Wang

Salvation Mountain by Leonard Knight in Imperial County, CA. Photo: Chris Wang

Mara Hoffman Waist Cutout Tea Length Dress

Mara Hoffman Waist Cutout Tea Length Dress

In college, I wrote my senior thesis – a collection of interrelated short stories – on self-taught/outsider/naïve artists (all those slashes attest to this spectral category of creativity). Such artists share an irrepressible drive to visually express themselves, an instinct epitomized by Leonard Knight. A Vermont native, Knight had been a welder, handyman, auto body mechanic, guitar teacher and painter before he decamped to Slab City, a squatters’ colony on a former military base several hours east of LA. In this lawless land, he built a three-story monolith to his faith, Salvation Mountain – a terraced rainbow made of adobe, straw and umpteen gallons of paint, cloaked in Bible verses and crowned with a cross. He shared his creation with others; visitors summit Salvation by following a golden path. Knight died last month at age 82. Without him, his mountain may languish; the site requires constant maintenance to combat the harsh conditions of the Colorado Desert. Can words help save Salvation Mountain? In 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described it as “a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible.” I want to go (in this omniscient dress) and add my voice to its preservation.


  1. Got hooked reading your blog after finding a link on the JH Public Art spring newsletter. You are obviously a fine writer and you might think about submitting some of those short stories about outsider artists to the Wyoming Arts Council creative writing fellowships.

    • You’ve inspired me to reconsider those short stories, dusty after a decade! Thank you very much for perusing Wear + Here, and for your encouraging message. As soon as the 2015 fellowship application materials are released, I’ll apply. In the meantime, I’ll ready my cast of outsider artists.

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