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last week in art

Kesha's Latest Music Video Features a Work of Monumental Outsider Art

Leonard Knight's 'Salvation Mountain' is a surprisingly appropriate setting for the singer's new single, "Praying."
Screencap via YouTube

Kesha is back, reborn in the music video for her new single "Praying." Jonas Åkerlund, who's collaborated with Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Pussy Riot, directed the video, in which pig-headed men chase the golden angel-winged pop star around Leonard Knight's legendary monument to love and spirituality in the middle of the Colorado Desert, Salvation Mountain.

The 30-year-old singer has weathered music industry purgatory in the last few years. Litigation continues against Sony and her allegedly abusive producer there, Dr. Luke. She opens the video with a monologue questioning the pain that "God, or whatever" has allowed her to face, immediately contrasting Salvation Mountain's message, writ large on its technicolor face, that "God Is Love." The five-minute video sees her come to what she describes as, "an unobtainable place of peace," in an open letter she published in Lenny Letter to accompany the new single.


It's hard to imagine a more symbolic setting for Kesha's comeback than Knight's monument to tenacity and faith. The Salvation Mountain seen in "Praying" is the second version he built. In 1984 the artist was living out of a van. The story goes that Knight decided to spend a week in the desert. Instead, he spent four years tirelessly building the first version of Salvation Mountain from concrete and salvaged junk. To save money, Knight cut the concrete with sand—leading the whole structure to crumble to the ground.

According to the monument's website, "Instead of being discouraged, Leonard thanked the Lord for showing him that the mountain wasn't safe. He vowed to start once again and to 'do it with more smarts.'" That was in 1988, and now Salvation Mountain is a colorful Instagram hotspot, supported by visitors who refurbish its paint and labeled "a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection" by The Folk Art Society of America. The charity Salvation Mountain, Inc. is working to make the artwork a protected location.

Knight died in 2014. The thirty years he spent building Navajo-style adobe domes and transforming garbage from the local dump into art clearly resonated with Kesha and Åkerlund. Explore the unique work of outsider art in the Instagrams below.

Learn more about Salvation Mountain on its official website. Kesha's new album Rainbows is out August 11.


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