Leonard Knight (1931- )
As a boy growing up in Vermont, Leonard Knight dreamed of visiting the California he knew from watching movies. After serving in the army in Korea, he spent a number of years crisscrossing the country, eventually stopping in Nebraska for five years. During this period Knight developed a fascination with hot air balloons and began constructing one from colorful remnant material discarded by a balloon manufacturer. Although the balloon never flew, it now has a permanent home in the American visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.
Leonard Knight visited his sister in San diego a number of times. During a visit in 1967 he discovered God in a life-altering experience. Years later, in 1984, he settled permanently near Niland, CAlifornia, 190 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and began creating Salvation Mountain. The Mountain is about as tall as a three story building and as wide as a football field. Colorful decorations and religious texts cover Salvation Mountain. Most prominent is the statement, “God is Love.”
Salvation Mountain is molded with adobe clay. Most of the clay and paint Knight uses are donated to him. When he first started working on teh Mountain, Knight used concrete and stretched it with sand, but the entire artwork collapsed, so he set to remaking it with solid clay. Knight uses window putty to shape decorative elements such as flowers. The mountain is constantly changing, due both to Knight’s ongoing work and to the elements, including the desert sun. Knight has decorated numerous other objects surrounding Salvation Moutnain, including the truck in which he lives. Next to the Mountain, Knight is currently building a museum out of hay bales, used utility poles, and found objectrs such as tires.
Leonard Knight describes his work as a love story: “I painted the mountain because I love God and I love people.”
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