Will travel for folk art. I'm a huge fan of colour. Maybe it's Vancouver's glassy-green skyline that makes me particularly crave outbursts of colour. Or perhaps it's the newness of the city. It's clean and a bit corporate - where's the street art? So when I happened to run across a blog post of a California couple's engagement photo shoot at a strange and colourful location I'd never seen, I was immediately intrigued. Where is this? What is it? Who made it? How have I never heard of this place...thing? After some simple sleuthing I discovered its name and location: Salvation Mountain in Slab City, California. Add it to the travel bucket list. If you too are a fan of the wacky, the whimsical and the colourful, here are four larger-than-life, American folk art installations you won't want to miss.  

The Chloride Murals

Chloride Arizona Murals
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/snowpeak/

Artist: Roy Purcell

Year: 1966, repainted/restored in 2006

About/history: While pursuing a Master's degree of Fine Art, Purcell took employment as a miner near Chloride, Arizona. During this diversion he completed The Journey, a collection of murals spanning 2,000 square feet. The vivid artwork is painted directly on the surface of boulders among an arid desert landscape.  

Address: Murals Road, Chloride, AZ 86431, USA

Nearest major airport: Las Vegas


Totem Pole Park

totem pole park ed galloway oklahoma
Credit: Len Wright via flickr.com/photos/lenmidgham

Artist: Nathan Edward Galloway

Year: 1937-1961

About: Totem Pole Park is located near Foyil, Oklahoma, and showcases 11 objects stretched across 14 acres. All of of Galloway's creations were made of stone or concrete, and stylistically draw from Native American motifs. Galloway carved images of birds, animals and aboriginal peoples in bas-relief and then painted the depictions. The property lies just a few kilometres off Oklahoma's famed Route 66, making the collection a popular roadside attraction. Admission is free. 

Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m; Sunday 12:30 p.m.-4 p.m. 

History: Even as a boy, Missouri born Galloway had a knack for the arts. He would eventually become a manual arts teacher, excelling at woodworking and blacksmithing. Following his retirement Galloway began constructing a totem pole from red sandstone, steel and wood. It stretched to 90 feet tall, with a turtle shaped base measuring 30 feet wide. Galloway's folk art would eventually grow to 11 pieces and a building, the attraction known today as Totem Pole Park.

Address: 21300 E Highway 28A, Chelsea, OK 74016

Nearest major airport: Tulsa

Read moreClick here


Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/

Artist: Leonard Knight

Year: 1984-1994+

About: Salvation Mountain stands 150 feet wide and 50 feet tall, as a message of love and compassion. The mountain seen today is actually the second version of Knight's vision after the first collapsed in a heap of sand, cement and paint. Today's structure was hand-constructed of adobe clay and covered with thick layers of paint. (Knight estimates 100,000 gallons of paint have been dumped on Salvation Mountain.) The mountain marks the entrance to Slab City, the site of a former marine barracks. The campsite attracts a motley group of inhabitants, from veterans to hippies to nomads. Salvation Mountain is open to visitors, free of charge, with visiting hours from dawn through dusk.  

Click here to open an interactive panoramic view of Salvation Mountain

History: At age 35, Vermont native Leonard Knight found God. He would spend a great deal of time preaching his sentiments, but deeply craved a way to communicate his message on a grander scale. Knight endeavoured to create a hot air balloon from scratch, and eventually completed after moving to Quartzite, Arizona. "God is love" read his aerial canvas. However, when it came to launch the balloon it would not fly and tore at multiple seams. Deeply disappointed he resigned from his vision. Before departing the desert he dedicated himself to assembling a small monument, constructed of junk heaped beneath cement. This structure would become version 1.0 of Salvation Mountain. 

Address: Beal Road, Niland, CA 92257

Nearest major airport: San Diego, Palm Springs and Los Angeles

Read moresalvationmountain.us


Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch
Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hz536n/

Artists: Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez & Doug Michels

Year: 1974, relocated 1997

About: Cadillac Ranch is comprised of a line up of 10 models, buried nose-deep in the ground. They were designed to sit at the same angle as the Pyramids of Giza. The lineup features varying models of junked Cadillacs, representing their evolution. Of particular focus is the characteristic mid-century tailfin, and its eventual demise. Tailfins were most popularly sported on vehicles in the 1950s and 1960s, with the earliest seen on 1948 Cadillacs. 

History: After forming a vision for the installation Lord, Marquez and Michels approached eccentric millionaires to fund their project. In 1972 the group secured the patronage of Stanley Marsh and the Cadillac Ranch was constructed on Marsh's private property. In 1997 the installation was unceremoniously relocated three kilometres to the west, to defend it against Armarillo's urban creep. Every so often, and for varying reasons, the cars are completely repainted. Today, visitors are encouraged to tag the cars with their own graffiti. 

Address: I-40 Frontage Rd, Amarillo, TX 79124

Nearest major airport: Amarillo

Have you been to any of these installations? What did you think?
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