Thursday, December 15, 2011

Leonard Knight Leaves Salvation Mountain

Last week, Leonard Knight, the creator of Salvation Mountain, asked his main assistant, Kevin Eubank, to take him to the hospital. He knew he was having cognitive issues. The hospital observed him for 72 hours and then released him to a long-term care facility with some form of dementia. So the upshot is that Leonard is no longer at his amazing creation.

Fortunately, Kevin had been working with Leonard for the last couple of years and has been trying to organize things legally to preserve the Mountain after Leonard passes. Last night, though, I got the word that Kevin died in his sleep.

Salvation Mountain is important not only as a fantastic folk art environment but also because of Leonard's heartfelt message that God is love. He spent thirty years building the place and it now receives thousands of visitors a year. Up until now, Leonard has tried to greet every one of these visitors to share his message.

Many times over the years some church or other would try to co-opt Leonard's mountain and message to serve their own, narrower vision, Leonard would not have it. His pure message was so universal, accepting and inclusive of all denominations that he could not see having it serve one particular dogmatic system.

When Leonard started having cognitive issues, which actually was more than a few years ago, to the rescue came Kevin Eubank. Kevin had had heart trouble and I think a heart attack which changed his life. He decided to devote himself to helping Leonard preserve the Mountain and its spiritual message and to protect Leonard from various vultures who sought to either take Leonard's money and resources or to take the Mountain for their own purposes.

It is interesting that, only a few days after Leonard was put into a care facility, that Kevin would die peacefully in his sleep. It is as if Leonard was the real attraction and his message was the purpose of the whole thing and Kevin was granted a few more years of life to insure that Leonard, the mountain, and the message would continue on. That job done, Kevin's work was through. It is hard not to believe that divine forces were at work. Although I am often very skeptical of this kind of thing. I feel that this is a great possibility and it comforts me to assume it's true.

The Mountain is being watched and protected against vandalism since neither Kevin or Leonard are there now. Efforts are being made by many to preserve the site, particularly to preserve it in the spirit that Leonard wants it preserved. Here is the latest update on the status of the mountain as of yesterday, December 14, 2011.
Here is Kevin's last update on Leonard's condition and how he is faring at the care facility.

I hope that Salvation Mountain does get preserved as some sort of park although the government's stance on religion may preclude their official involvement. It may be up to a private foundation or organization to keep the site intact and available to the public. Kevin had been in contact with an organization called SPACES, which exists to preserve art and cultural sites. They were instrumental in the long process to preserve and protect the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. I emailed them yesterday to tell them about Kevin's death. They said they will do what they can to help preserve the Mountain but said also that it is a difficult situation.

Without Leonard there, it will be a bit empty. People came from all over the world to see Salvation Mountain as an art site and they got the happy surprise of meeting Leonard, experiencing his loving presence and hearing his message to the world that God is Love.

Visit the Salvation Mountain website.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Cadwac Finds a New Home

My art car, the Cadwac now has a new owner. It is going to have a new life, too. Plans are in the works to do a major visual remodel of the car. Although it doesn't belong to me anymore, I will still be involved in helping with the remodel. Any metal work needed will be done at my shop. The new owner intends it to be used as a mutant vehicle at Burning Man next year as well as appearing in various parades and such.
It will have a whole new look - a darker, more steampunk look, with the addition of fire cannons and other effects, it should be pretty damn cool! We will add air springs to it and a trailer hitch as well as some special fog and lightng effects.
I am glad to see new energy and enthusiasm put into it. I will post updates on its transformation here in this blog.

One other thing, I fixed the link in my previous post so that you will actually get to see more photos of Charmingdale. Sorry I got it wrong the first time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Move to Charmingdale

It's been awhile since I posted to this blog mostly because we have moved off-grid. In August we packed it all up and moved to a remote mountain location forty miles from the nearest town. We have to create our own power, pump our own water, and climb a ladder to make a cellphone call. We do have satellite internet though. After a bit of fussing we got it going at the end of September.

Charmingdale is what we call it. The name comes from one of the first post offices in the area. The residents at the time wanted to call it Charmingdale and they set up a post office and created a town - kind of. Not really a town, just a small collection of ranches out in the wild. The post office only existed for about a year and that was the end of that. I think this all happened about 1880.

We got here as a result of answering an advertisement in the Caretaker's Gazette. They were looking for managers for a remote biological field station. The site used to be a ranger station until the colleges got a hold of it. They got three hundred applications for the job but we were the lucky ones and got the position. Our job is to maintain the 8 acres of buildings, fences, and fields.

Our adventure in this Zone has begun and there will be many future reports on what goes on out here. As of now, we just had our first freezes as winter approaches. We have picked the pears from our orchard and are getting things battened down for the cold part of the year. It is a beautiful time of year in a beautiful place. We are keeping the location secret for now just for the fun of it.

More photos here

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Phonehenge West Update

There is a nation whose government can take land that you own at any time and put you in jail for creative home building. What country is this?  It's the United States of America. If you think you own your house or your land, think again.

OK, so I am a little over the top to claim that he is being prosecuted for creative home building. It's actually building code violations he is in trouble for. There are 9 counts, but I don't know the specifics. I think one of the violations is building too close to the property line but at least some of them are related to not getting permits to build some of the structures. But, still, isn't putting the guy in jail a bit excessive? Especially for the area that he lives in. It is very rural, sparsely populated, and decidedly not upscale. Not to mention that he has been building this place for 30 years! And, only now, they come for him?

As of this date, I think the place is still standing but Kim Fahey and his wife, who built the place, have been forced to move out. They have removed most of their personal belongings. He spent a short time in jail awaiting sentencing but was released on bail. Now his sentencing date has been postponed until some time in early August because he had to be hospitalized for kidney stones. I am guessing that it's too late to save the place unless some big names and big money step in immediately. Even then, maybe not.

In June, a group of us went out to Phonehenge West to see it, take pictures, and get a feel for what is going on there. If you have read my previous post about Phonehenge West, you already know some of the background on this assault on private property rights. For those who never got to see Phonehenge, See my photos here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Save Phonehenge West from Destruction

 For the last 30 years Kim Fahey has been building an impressive live-in art installation in the mountain/desert of Southern California. Now it is threatened with destruction due to building code violations. Not only that, it's creator faces possible prison time for building art! That's crazy. Sentencing is July 8, 2011, so there is very little time to mount a massive public outcry to stop this travesty.
This is a major artwork and needs to be saved, in my opinion. It is also an example of  government's out-of control-intrusion into people's lives. Read this LA Times article about the latest trial and then go to the Save Phonehenge West Facebook page to stay informed and/or make a donation to fund the efforts to save it.. This isn't just about art. It's about government's increasing erosion of private property rights and creative expression.
I hope to visit Phonehenge West in a couple of weeks to show support and take some photos and video of it. If we can't save it from the wrecking ball, at least we can document it's creative grandeur before the denizens of mediocrity destroy it..
 It's not impossible to save artwork from the government. In Chandigarh, India, a major sculpture garden by Nek Chand was threatened by the Indian government. Because of public outcry, the government backed down and actually ending up making it a park and funding it's maintenance. In California, the location of Phonehenge West,  the Watts Towers were threatened by the government and then, because of public involvement, it was saved and is now a government funded park.
The government exists to serve the people. Not the other way around. Please share this with everyone you know.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rest In Peace Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell, aka Chasterus, died sometime in the night between Tuesday, May 10 and Wednesday, May 11. It was natural causes of some kind but we don't know yet exactly what happened. He was a well-known art car artist and the founder and mayor of East Jesus. For anyone who doesn’t know, East Jesus is a habitable, extensible, experimental art environment-in-progress that has been Charlie’s home since December of 2006. His website is currently still online but I don't know for how much longer since no one but he had the password.

Charlie wasn’t feeling well the weekend before his death. He had stomach and lower back pain. A friend took him to the hospital Monday morning. I don’t know what all they did but they ended up prescribing antibiotics and an antispasmodic and sent him home. A trusted friend stayed with him through Tuesday and, in the evening, Charlie said he was feeling a little better. The friend went home. At 7 AM the next morning (Wednesday) he cam back to check on Charlie and found him sitting where he left him - apparently a peaceful death.

Most of the time, when someone dies in Slab City, their camps are disassembled within weeks by the locals who take what they can use and sell the rest for scrap. We did not want this to happen to East Jesus. Almost immediately word was spread about what happened. Jon Alloway, the producer and director of an upcoming movie, “Into the Zone”, was instrumental in contacting those close to Charlie. Close friends, Greg Hill, Flip Cassidy and Joe Holliday arrived the very same night to protect East Jesus from looters. More friends arrived over the next few days, including myself, until over a dozen supporters were present to decide how to preserve East Jesus. It was a good weekend. Not a happy weekend, but good. If only Charlie could have seen the love shown for him and his creation.

At this time East Jesus is being maintained and even expanded. Friends have been erecting a perimeter fence around the compound and another, higher, fence around the containers and living space. The site is occupied 24/7 so that nothing gets damaged or stolen. Keeping it going through this summer will be the biggest challenge since it is brutally hot, especially in August and September. 

Charlie will be missed by many, many people. He was a renaissance man. His expertise covered so much ground. His singing was amazing. He had technical knowledge about so many things. He was way into ham radio and other electronics stuff. He had a refined sense of design when he created art. He had strong, well thought out, opinions about most things. He had a great sense of humor. To his friends, he was kind and generous and he had almost zero tolerance for mean or dishonest people. He followed his own path with little regard for convention or social norms. I loved and respected Charlie and will miss him greatly.

A memorial celebration is being held on June 5th at NIMBY in Oakland, CA. I can't make it for this but I created a short video to be played at the event. There is a collaboratively created sculpture area in East Jesus that serves as a memorial to Charlie. We started it the weekend after he died. If you knew him, you are invited to add to it. 

To stay informed about East Jesus, or help it continue, you can view the East Jesus Facebook page.