Thursday, January 18, 2018

Odd in the Desert: Salvation Mountain, Salton Sea, California

Drive southwards along the east shore of the Salton Sea in southern California, pass a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) checkpoint (yes, they have a new bureaucratic name), turn left at the sign for Slab City, and you come to a man-made mountain. This is the famous Salvation Mountain, the life work of Leonard Knight (1931–2014), who made his edifice of straw bales and adobe mud, covered with gallons (tons?) of paint. According to Wikipedia, the edifice "encompasses numerous murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses, though its philosophy was built around the Sinner's Prayer."
There are plenty of painted artifacts here, with Love, God, and other homilies in bold colors. These remind me of the folk art at Margaret's Gro, on North Washington Street, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. That, too, was built by a preacher as his temple to the Lord.
It really surprised me that this is a popular wedding photography site. Well, why not? But the light was harsh; the couple this day needed an assistant to hold a sun diffuser.
Drive a couple of blocks through Slab City, round a corner, and you reach East Jesus. According to Wikipedia, "Slab City, also called The Slabs, is largely a snowbird community in the Sonoran Desert located in Imperial County, California, 156 miles northeast of San Diego within the California Badlands, and used by recreational vehicle owners and squatters from across North America. It took its name from concrete slabs that remained from the abandoned World War II Marine Corps barracks of Camp Dunlap." The marine base closed in 1956, and the land status is a bit murky but likely belongs to the State of California. The residents of Slab possibly could be classified as squatters, but they certainly are creative ones. "East Jesus is an experimental, sustainable and habitable art installation" made from recycled materials and discarded electronics. Interesting stuff; it is well worth a drive to the Salton Sea if you are passing through southern California. Well, skip mid-summer, when the temperature is well over 100° F.

Photographs taken on Fuji 200 film with a Yashica Electro 35CC compact rangefinder camera. I scanned the negatives with a Phustek 7600i film scanner using Silverfast Ai software.

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