Art in The Last Free Place in America
Slab City, “the last free place in America”, a city without law regulation, no policemen, and no judiciary court to stop you from what we (people who live in the safe county of San Diego) deem criminal. It’s a place you can live how you want, when you want it, with no one to stop you. Located about two hours away from San Diego, close to El Centro, this place has become a safe place for the homeless and many drug addicts. But do not be fooled, not everyone there is like that, some of them just like being out there, some of them are artists, and some of them are all of the above.
In the city of no laws, art has become no exception. East Jesus located next to slab city is where artists of all types comes together to make something of nothing, or what we think is nothing. They gather up useless pieces of trash and make sculptures to repurpose things that most people think is unusable. The history of East Jesus began in 2006 when the late Charles Stephen Russell moved from Oakland California to the only free place left in America – Slab City. He started this city of art using any material he could get his hands on, and fellow slab city citizens joined in pursuit.
If East Jesus doesn’t sound familiar, Salvation Mountain might, you might have seen it in Kesha’s music video, “Praying”. This visually entertaining hill created with straw, adobe, and thousands of gallons of lead-free pain, made by Leonard Knight is a visual creation that may be considered graffiti due to how it was made. Many attempts to take this structure down were made like when Imperial County in 1994 hired toxic waste specialists to test the lead toxicity count which came back with high levels. Knight decided to gather signatures from dozens of supporters to have another test done by someone of his choosing. The tests came back negative which supported what Knight said about using non-toxic paint.
Either way, both of these artistic sites can be considered to be illegal works of art. In a place without laws or regulations, these artworks are not regulated by the state or any county and people have free range to do anything that they want. In some cases, like Salvation Mountain you have some regulation but it’s still not regulated as other places.