Creator of Salvation Mountain, Leonard knight died at the age of 82 this Monday. After taking three decades for personalizing his famed art he finally completed his mission of spreading this message: “God Is Love”. He was surrounded by visitors every week due to the power of his love towards his art. He work was counted as the greatest folk art ever made by a person. According to TIME, though Leonard shrugged off the title of “artist,” his work—his single masterpiece—will surely be counted among the greatest pieces of folk art ever created.
I met Leonard seven years ago and his impact on my life has been immense. Leonard made me want to throw away all of my things. My computers, my phone, my career, my ego—and to help him build his mountain of mud and paint. Instead, I helped him carry a dozen hay bales up the mountain and promised to come back again. I returned a dozen times over six years to help him build, to photograph his work, and to try to better understand his humble genius. I had never met a man of such singular, unflinching vision and to this day I can say he is one of the most incredible people I have ever met in all the world.
Your message lives on, Leonard. Travel well my friend.
Salvation Mountain, the art installation, near Niland, Calif., on the Salton Sea
Knight at Salvation Mountain
Knight patches holes in the mountain created by rain. He fills each hole with homemade adobe and straw, then paints it after it has dried
Knight applies an adobe and straw mix to the mountain. The adobe comes from the mountain’s hillside and dries as hard as cement
Knight makes repairs inside the “museum”
Knight spent about three decades building the religious installation
Knight paints a peripheral mound covered in flowers, one of his common themes
Knight’s tree of life, which he painted on one part of the base of the mountain
Children visit the inside of the “museum,” a bee-hive like structure made of telephone poles, car tires, windows, hay bales and adobe
Around the edges of the mountain are several peripheral structures and sculptures, as well as art cars and trailers painted with scripture
Paint donated by visitors for the expansion and repair of the mountain
One of Knight’s many art cars covered in scripture. He used to drive them in parades in the valley
Visitors at the mountain
A portait of Knight when he was 77 years old
Knight’s paint brushes
Credit: Aaron Huey