"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
- Le Petite Prince
For me, Salvation Mountain was a bit like reading Le Petite Prince in high school. It was strange and weird and in so many ways it should not make sense and yet in the craziest of ways it all makes too much sense. Both the book and this art installation feel like you are walking through someone else's strange dream. A dream that is just whimsical and artistic enough to challenge everything you thought you understood about social constructs.
In the case of Salvation Mountain, the entire "colorful ode to love" pushes the boundaries of what you know to be a typical cathedral, monument, or art museum. Leonard Knight, for whatever reason, felt compelled to build a monument to what he believed. His choice of expression was through hundreds of gallons of paint poured on top of mud and hay bales in the middle of the desert. In many ways, it just simply doesn't make sense. But, the more you wander around and the more you touch it and feel it, the more you see the love poured into this unique experience.
The entire campus is a love letter with messages written on nearly every square inch of the place. And, what intrigued me the most was the backdrop. Here, in the middle of the desert, with an anarchist settlement to the east and the drug-run Slab City to the west, stood this colorful, beautiful art sculpture with hundreds of messages of love woven into every ounce of its existence. The juxtaposition of this installation in this landscape made this experience that much more mind-blowing and inspiring.
Interestingly enough, in our current divisive political climate, Salvation Mountain is one thing that both democrats and republicans have fought together to preserve as a national monument. Senator Barbara Boxer (Dem) addressed Congress on the matter calling Salvation Mountain "a unique and visionary sculpture... a national treasure... profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives." Who would have thought that Knight's pile of paint and straw would come to have such deep meaning in our world even decades later? The message "Love is Universal" couldn't be more timely or more needed in our world today.
Here are a few photos taken while exploring Salvation Mountain:
It is not hard to find, mostly because its in the middle of the desert and you can't miss it. There is not much in the area so I recommend bringing water and snacks with you. Also, it is quite hot and there isn't much shade. Bring sunscreen and dress for the desert. I visited here in Feb./March and it was still very hot and dry. I highly recommend arriving early both to beat the crowds and the rising sun!