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Thursday, October 27, 2011


I'm back home now. Missed my family. I missed Matt when I was at a hotel, because we enjoy hotels together very well. I missed Roxanne when I was looking at the art, because she enjoys art with me very well. And I missed Rocket at the Venice Beach Freakshow, because he enjoys weird things with me very well.

Notice me on top of the "V"

But that trip, to California, it's left me just way too inspired. I'm overwhelmed with this feeling of inspiration now. I wish I could have rationed out the experiences to have occurred over the course of a year. That way they would have a chance of being utilized more efficiently. But, now, it's like if you shot a big ole moose somewhere out in the wilderness, and you can't possibly eat all of the meat before most of it rots. That's what too much inspiration is like- I can't possibly materialize all of it before some of it rots. And you can't put inspiration in a deep freezer.

I get obsessed with things sometimes. I don't know why. But usually just it's short term obsession. Like a month or so ago, I read that book by OJ Simpson "If I did it", and then I became totally obsessed with the OJ Simpson case- constantly googling it so I could educate myself about every tiny detail of the case. I probably wasted a lot of time. But typically after a couple days, I'm totally over it (thankfully). I often get obsessed with murder cases I see on "48 Hours Mystery", and google them to death (haha... I didn't notice this pun until I was rereading it, so the pun really was unintended). And I end up trying to find the murderers and victims and reporters on facebook, and other useless stuff. But, there's other things I get obsessed about, not just murder cases- mainly things that have to do with art. So... basically things that have to do with art or murder. I think getting obsessed with things is one of the traits of a great artist. But it also has to be accompanied by sticktoitiveness, so that you have to ability to stick to it after the obsession has worn off. Leonard must have had a whole lot of sticktoitiveness (commitment) in order to keep going when he wasn't so obsessed with building a mountain anymore.

At this point, I've got way too many things to be obsessed about. I just don't have enough time to google all the things I want to. I sat in McDonalds today for about an hour, reading every account of Salvation Mountain that anyone's ever posted on the internet. Then I remembered the first time I ever heard about Salvation Mountain- when I watched the movie "Into the Wild" many many years ago. But I don't remember it very well, because I was drunk when I watched it. So I decided to pick it up from the library so I could watch it again. But I didn't want my obsession to keep me from being productive (that happens a lot), so I stretched and primed my canvas while I watched. This is the Youtube link to the scene from the movie when they visit Salvation Mountain. The two kids are actors, but Leonard is just playing himself... perfectly. (you got to watch it- it's less than two and a half minutes)

I really like his quote: "Everybody in the whole world is just loving me, and I want to have the wisdom to love them back". That quote amazes me even so much more now that I've been to the mountain, because I can see that he really is using his big piece of art to love people back. As soon as people arrive he says "Hello, just make yourself at home." (I heard him say this about 5 times). And he wants to make sure you get a chance to climb to the top and explore inside. He doesn't just want you to read the words "God is love", he wants you to walk all over them. He wants you to experience it- in a tangible, colorful, beautiful way. And that's a great way to love people. And it is inspiring me to figure out a way that my art can actually love people too- not just be something nice to look at. I want to transform my obsession into commitment, and my commitment into love. Starting with this canvas right here. The one I stretched today.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Salvation Mountain

This is the real reason I came to California. Everything else that we've seen up to this point was just because "well since we're in the area, we'd might as well...". But this, Salvation Mountain, was the thing I'd been stalking for a while, via the Internet. I do stalk people online too, but this was the first mountain I'd ever stalked.

After today, I do believe that over the course if my trip, if anything was disappointing, or boring, or perplexing, this made up for it all.

Leonard Knight, who turns 80 years old next weekend, is the artist of the mountain. He began creating it about 39 years ago as a quest to spread the message that "God is love". In my opinion he has succeeded and couldn't have done a better job at spreading that message with the mountain. Not only does the piece of art literally say "God is love", but the experience that each and every visitor to the mountain has, is a message of God's love. Leonard himself, too, is so full of love and joy. I told him that if my art ever has an impact on people the way that his has, I would consider myself special.

This is the view from the top of the mountain.

This is the view of "God" from nearly the top of the mountain:

Another view:

One of the many rooms within the mountain:

A pile of art supplies at the base:

A magical forest inside the mountain:

Leonard will tell you right away that he wasn't always successful. At first he wanted to spread his message with a hot air balloon that he spent 14 years trying to make. Like the mountAin, it said on the side of it "God is Love". But he was never able to get it off the ground and the materials deteriorated. Then he started working on the mountain instead.

During this trip, I've given some of my art prints to different artists as a way to connect with them. When Leonard looked through my prints, he pulled out the painting of Roxanne with the hot air balloons and said he wanted to especially hold onto that picture. Then he told me that it reminded him of a song he wrote one time about a little girl, and he sung it to me. My mom recorded it for me on her phone:

Next weekend will be Leonard's 80th birthday celebration, and as a surprise to him, some people have arranged for a replica of his hot hot air balloon to fly up over the mountain, hopefully fulfilling his original dream.
I took quite a few pictures of Leonard and plan on painting a colorful portrait of him and his mountain. I wish I could start on it today! He seemed genuinely excited that a "famous painter" was going to make him go down in history "just like Mona Lisa".... I don't know who told him I was famous, or maybe he is mistaking me for someone else! Either way, I'm on a mission now, and feel more inspired than ever!

Our view as we drove away:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dolls, potties, and beer bottles

My mom says I should title this entry "keeping a positive attitude in a negative situation"... which gives you a clear picture of what she thought of the day. But at least she wasn't frightened like she was when we went to Venice Beach.

First we went to the "sky village swap meet" which was supposed to be part art installation and part flea market. It was an interesting experience.

In the middle of the swap meet was a "magical cave". It was a cave made out of spray insulation painted brown. There were several windows that you could put your face up to and peer inside to view the inner magical land. This is what it looked like from the outside:

This is what you saw if you looked in the peep hole:

We didn't buy anything from the vendors, but I did meet a cute puppy that licked my face and it smelled like baby puppy scent and I liked that.

Then we continued on into the dessert until we found Noah Purifoy's dessert art museum. This was a couple acres of... strangely organized trash. I thought it was interesting to explore. There were several shelters with oddly arranged items that appeared to have a purpose or function, but did not. If a garbage dump started to evolve into a higher form of life, this is what it would probably look like.

I began to notice a common use of materials among outsider artists. I've been seeing over and over, doll parts, old toilets, and glass bottles. Im not sure why this is.

As we left the dessert museum and back through the small town, we came upon the "Art Queen"- a place for the art of Shari Elf. I loved the "world famous crochet museum":

This is what it looked like on the inside:

I think it might have been the worlds tiniest museum! I also enjoyed her garage gallery of artwork and this is a picture of me enjoying it:

This was my favorite piece of artwork by Shari:

I also bought a shirt that she made. She screen prints images onto used clothing which I thought was a great way to make affordable wearable art. This is me wearing the shirt I bought. It says "What Would Cher do?".

And this is Shari, the super cool artist herself (such a cute artsy girl, I think we'd be friends if I lived in the California dessert):

Next we continued on to Riverside to seek out the beer bottle chapel. I'd been looking forward to this place because I'd been hearing about this outsider art environment- part church, part taco shop, part art exhibit (another trend i've noticed about outsider art environments is that they are unsure of their purpose) That sounded great to me.

It indeed was a wacky crazy art land, with a taco shop and church amongst it all (as well as dolls, potties and many many many beer bottles). I'd read many reviews saying that eating there was not a good idea, but I didn't believe the reviews. I insisted that we eat there in order to fully experience the place. That was a bad idea. This is my mom, upset about the food:

Here is some of the wacky art around the place:

And now here is the beautiful chapel- like a serene, catholic, colorful oasis in the midst of crazy land:

Notice Jesus and the eagle on top. And notice the walls, made completely of beer bottles. The inside alter:

Paintings on the ceiling (for those who prefer a less-heard-of Sistine chapel):

We left with hungry bellies, but not hungry eyes.
Right now I am inside this wigwam (our hotel for the night):

We're staying in the wigwam hotel in San Bernadino.

Tomorrow we will get up early and drive further into the dessert to find Salvation Mountain- the Mecca!!

Road Church

We're on the road this Sunday morning driving out to the dessert. We're missing church, but my mom is making us listen to a sermon through her iPod. I didn't want to listen to a sermon but she said that I have to since she went to the Venice beach freakshow with me. I thought I went into the Hollywood open house to make up for that. I guess I might be making up for that for a while. The sermons over now and she just started some praise music. She's driving, so I hope she doesn't start raising her hands.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Uncomfortable situations

Then we stayed in Venice beach for the Venice beach freakshow. I was super excited about this. My mom.... not so much.

This is me.

This is too.

This little doggy had an extra paw. He didn't like people stepping behind the counter. I wish Friday had an extra paw.

This is conjoined bearded dragons!

This is conjoined turtles!

There was a mirror behind that curtain.

Look! Wolf boy and antler girl! His real name was Larry Gomez and he has a condition that causes his face to be covered in hair. He was a nice man and normally lives in Riverside, which is where we're headed tomorrow.

My mom said that this place made her uncomfortable and she got very grumpy. She says she didn't but she did. So we left. But later on, she took me to someplace that made me uncomfortable and grumpy- so we're even now.
This is how it happened- I wanted to find the Hollywood sign, because when I talked to Roxanne this morning and told her I was in Hollywood she said "do you see the sign?!", so I thought it would be cool to find the sign and take a picture. I also had heard of a place called The Garden of Oz that was supposed to be near there that would be cool to see.
We drove to the area and could see the sign from a distance, but wanted to get closer. We started driving up the mountain and found the Garden of Oz, but it was locked. I took a picture through the gate:

But as we drove further up there was lots of signs saying "NO TOURISTS!" and "STOP TRYING TO FIND THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN!" and "GO AWAY" and whatnot. And there were lots of houses that i think belong to rich movie stars. But then we saw an "open house" sign for a newly built house. My mom wanted to go in but I felt scared and uncomfortable about it- probably how she felt at Venice beach. But I went in with her anyways. I thought maybe the realtor would say "you're not interested in buying this house are you?! You're just a tourist! Get out!" He didn't say that but I could tell he was thinking it. This is a picture taken from behind the pool:

Then we went in the backyard- and from there you can see the Hollywood sign. My mom took my picture:

I look scared because I was scared the realtor was going to come out back, and then we would have been totally caught red handed... taking a picture with the Hollywood sign- only tourists do that.
The house was 2.8 million dollars. I'll think about it...

Mosaic Tile House

Our first stop today was the mosaic tile house in Venice beach. I found this house online and emailed the owners to ask if they would kindly let stop by to see it. And they said yes. It was truly amazing and pictures can't really show how beautiful it was. But I took pictures anyways. Here they are.

This is Cheri- the wife, artist, and tile maker.

This is Gonzalo- the husband, artist, and tile breaker.

This is Lori (again, along for the ride today) standing behind one of the gates in the front courtyard.

The art studio in the back of their house actually had white walls. All of their artwork depicts a love story between the two of them. The wall above is dedicated to portraits of Gonzalo painted by Cheri. His artwork, too, is all about his obsession with her. Two artists totally obsessed with each other- beautiful.