Faith That Makes Mountains


David Berry describes a visit to Salvation Mountain in southern California, a “folk art project made by Leonard Knight, a Korean War vet who had a religious epiphany, which led him to park a truck in the desert and make a hill out of adobe clay and old house paint”:

[T]he mountain itself, a handmade version of Calvary, complete with cross, looks like a child’s furious scribblings blown into life. … The technicolour mountain is maybe 40 feet from its blue base (“the sea of Galilee”) to its peak, leftover clay piled on top of pushed-out dirt. Most of the paint has gotten another layer of religious sloganeering, from the GOD IS LOVE, each letter five or six feet on its own, to scaling down tributes to JESUS and THE HOLY BIBLE and FIRE and a frequently repeated screed to let Jesus into your heart. Near the base of the mountain is a half-completed hay-bale-and-telephone-pole “museum,” slathered with more paint, littered with twisted limbs, repurposed religious refuse and more slogans. The climate and grit and taupe clay surfaces make it feel something like a Holy Land cave, or anyway what I imagine they feel like from repeated viewings of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Inside, one tattooed twentysomething lay on an outcropping of plastered-over hay bales staring into a knotted mess of branches. Outside, a breathing H&M advertisement of a foursome, wafting hints of pot, took a group selfie in front of the mountain. A woman who claimed to be from Ohio, with a drawl I thought only came out of the South, explained that she was on the upkeep crew, Knight having passed away about a year ago.

(Photo of Salvation Mountain by Flickr user bdearth)