You see Salvation Mountain before you know what you're looking at. The northern end of a long, low, buff-colored bluff shines out a surprising white in the harsh desert sunlight. You drive closer and you begin to make out a patchwork of brilliant colours that are interworked with the white highlights and dominate over them. You see the big red heart and the 'God is Love' and the cross on the top made out of telephone poles. You turn off the blacktop and bump over a culvert and pull to a stop on the flat desert floor. Salvation Mountain rises in front of you.
To your right is an old truck with a gable-roofed wooden house built on back. The truck and the house are decorated in the same brilliant style as the mountain. Later on you'll Look at the details, the intertwined rows of flowers, the soaring doves of peace. You get out of Your car and the fiery heat hits you full blast. You look for Leonard Knight. Maybe he's inside his house on the truck. Maybe he's at work on his mountain.
I first heard about Leonard Knight in July of 1994. An article in the Los Angeles Times told about a man who had spent ten years painting religious slogans on a mountain in the desert. Now the local authorities had declared the mountain 'a toxic nightmare' and were making plans to bulldoze it down and take it away in trucks to a toxic waste dump in Nevada. I decided to go see it before they carried it off.
My first quick impression of Salvation Mountain was one of garishness. Then I took out my camera and walked closer and started looking at it.
by Larry Yust
First published: Fall 1996
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #16