This might be a peculiarly California thing: a squatter city in the desert. If you like Funky Artsy Fartsy weirdness like I do, you will feel right at home in Slab City, just east of Niland on the Salton Sea. (Warning: bad words ahead. Get over it.)
I had heard about Slab City from co-workers who had been there. Salvation Mountain, at the entrance to Slab City (see future blog post) is perhaps more famous, but you can see the influences of one upon the other.
Formerly Camp Dunlap, a WWII Marine artillery training base, squatters began moving in when it was dismantled in 1961, leaving only the concrete slabs.
Today many people use this as a free three-season or permanent home, despite its lack of electricity. Just find a patch of desert and call it yours. Folks of many sorts are attracted to this lifestyle. Some may even be “on the lam,” but many are just loners, or artsy types selling paintings or photography from their RVs or rickety trailers. Or communes of eccentric, like-minded people making a statement. A common refrain: “It’s the last free place in America.”
As you can see, any bare surface cries out for graffiti and messages.
The fork in the road (yes, there really IS a giant eating fork there) takes you to East Jesus (on the right) or West Satan. I’m not sure if West Satan is open to the public, but East Jesus definitely is. You can even ask for a personal tour of the installation art made entirely of recycled and discarded junk, er…. materials.
This car may have “escaped” from West Satan. Art cars are a big part of East Jesus.
As a fan of mosaics, including those made of discards, I found an hour to be just about right as far as examining the creative weirdness here. I would have gone on a tour if I wasn’t trying to get home before dark.
I think the residents of East Jesus have kept the local landfill from overflowing.
I have not figured out what these little metal bottles were used for. Anybody know?
This guy might have been the founder of East Jesus. He was obviously someone very special. I’ll let you continue the art walk of East Jesus without further commentary.
Despite its off-the-grid persona, Slab City does have several Facebook pages and websites. This one even has online shopping for Slab City merchandise. (ooh, ooh, bumperstickers!)
I’m sure the Slab City residents are used to gawkers, but do try to be respectful if you visit.
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Contact: cindy at cindymcintyre.com