Salvation Mountain, CA

April 2018

Photos and Words by Taylor Simpson

Born on a farm in rural Vermont, artist Leonard Knight became a self-proclaimed "hobo bird" after his return from serving in the Korean War. In the late 60s, he set out west in a 1951 Chevrolet truck in search of self-realization and a new life.


Settling in what locals refer to as "Slab City" just east of the Salton Sea in California, Knight was moved to create a religious piece of art that could be seen for miles. His first idea was to build a 200 foot hot air balloon with the words 'God is Love' painted on the side. After a decade of work and failure to physically launch the balloon, Knight had to entirely reimagine how he would display his message.


Knight found a more realistic medium for his artistic endeavor in a hill rising just high enough to be seen in the middle of the desert. With determination and some ten thousand gallons of donated paint, Knight transformed the hill into the work of art we see today.


Salvation Mountain has become a destination for movie sets, music videos, photoshoots, and your everyday art lover. Since Knights' passing in 2014, local "slab citizens" continue with the upkeep and restoration of the monument (including Knight's trailer home and Chevrolet truck) so their beloved friends' message of 'God is love' can live on.


Palm Springs, California, USA

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