WHERE THE HEAVEN FLOWERS GROW
The Life and Art of Leonard Knight
A BOOK BY AARON HUEY
WITH LEONARD KNIGHT
“Photographer Aaron Huey lent a hand, and a dozen hay bales later he experienced his own epiphany… through a photographer’s calling, a testament survives, preserving the spirit of the man who built it.” -VQR (Virginia Quarterly Review)
In Where the Heaven Flowers Grow, photographer Aaron Huey shares the world of Leonard Knight through images and artifacts collected over 5 years of documenting Salvation Mountain, the literal man-made mountain Knight built near California’s Salton Sea. What started as a small monument made of dirt and cement became a sprawling adobe and hay-bale complex; peripheral structures made of telephone poles, tires, and car windows grew from the earth, and art cars and sculptures crept across the landscape. Leonard coated everything in his signature patchwork of stripes and color blocks, pouring over half a million gallons of donated latex paint onto his creation.
Leonard had no belongings and lived in the back of a broken down fire truck covered in scripture. He built, he ate, he gave tours, he bathed and he slept. Nothing more. For 28 years he lived this way, the simple life of a visionary, working without pause on his opus. Leonard worked beyond our concept of time, slowly and methodically, without ever wandering from his path. His sole purpose in this endeavor was to spread the message that “God is Love.” He shared this with those who came to the mountain, giving personal tours to every single person who arrived during waking hours.
Leonard was unique in that he created with no outside influence. He did not mean to be an “artist,” yet he became one, and flowers sprung up wherever he went. Today the monumental environment he built, recognized by congress as a “national treasure,” is one of the most important examples of Outsider art in the world.
This book is a collection of images made of Leonard’s last years working on the Mountain, of the last surfaces he painted before they were covered by the work of volunteers after his death, and of artifacts from Leonard’s life. An introduction by curator Jo Farb Hernández places Leonard and his work in a greater historical context within the realm of art environments and the art world as a whole.
Aaron Huey (b. 1975) is a contemporary photographer based in Seattle, WA. He is known for a wide range of photographic projects including his 2002 solo walk across America, his 2010 image based TED talk (on Native American Treaty rights), his collaborations with street artist Shepard Fairey, and his feature work for National Geographic magazine. The sold out first edition of his book Mitakuye Oyasin won the Best Photography Book Award at the 2014 Independent Publisher Awards. For his photography of Leonard Knight and Salvation mountain Huey was awarded the VQR prize for photography in 2013.
Jo Farb Hernández (b. 1952) is a curator, author and professor based in San José, California. She is the director of SPACES (Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments); the director of the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery at San José State University; and former president of the California Association of Museums. In 2008 she received a prestigious Fulbright Senior Scholar research award to study Spanish art environments, the first ever awarded in the field of “outsider art.”