Blogging Is Overrated

Remembering a Folk Art Visionary

Last week America lost one of its greatest living folk artists, a man who I had photographed many times, a man who had become my friend. His name was Leonard Knight, and he was the artist who built the monumental work known as Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain is a literal man-made mountain 28 years in the making, covered in half a million gallons of latex paint. What started as a small monument made of dirt and painted cement became, over time, a sprawling adobe and hay-bale mountain complex, with peripheral structures made of telephone poles, tires, and car windows, as well as art cars and sculptures, all painted in a patchwork of stripes and color blocks of whatever paint was donated that week.

I met Leonard seven years ago when he could still carry a 40-pound bucket of adobe up a 30-foot ladder, but when he was no longer able to carry an 80-pound bale of hay to the top of his man-made mountain. He was 75 years old.

Leonard Knight was one of those men who was so singular of vision that from a distance some would brush it off as crazy. But it didn’t take much to realize what Leonard was. Just a conversation and you would knowβ€”this man was a saint, an American sadhu in the desert of southern California. The mountain was his living daily meditation.

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