23 Sidewinder Rd.
Niland, CA 92257
Dog-Friendly: Yes Kid-Friendly: Yes
From their website:
“Blooming around a re-purposed shipping container in the middle of the desert like a Kubrickian vision of the dawn of man, it is at once an anachronism and the only real representation of our depraved modernity; an artifact of ye olde future, an apocryphal codex of post-apocalyptica, a reverse-engineered Garden of Eden. Experimental, extensible, and completely habitable, East Jesus is constructed entirely of salvaged refuse and recycled materials — the discarded afterbirth of the Industrial Age and the sacrifices of its priests — and powered solely by the sun. Charlie’s infectious, polymathic mania was a persistent one, far outliving the frailties of his flesh; though he is gone, the echoes of his life still send out signals to the cold corners of the noosphere, calling out to the like-minded and bidding them come see what could have been. As a result East Jesus is now populated by an ever-rotating cast of artists, builders, writers, musicians, freethinkers, merry pranksters, wandering messiahs, the dispossessed, the damned.
Situated in the harshest, most remote part of Slab City, California — itself a radioactive dumping ground for the pariahs and lepers of the First World — and suffering from extreme temperatures year round, that East Jesus still survives is a testament to the tenability of mutation and the stubborn hearts of those who call it home. It sits tameless among the bones of things left behind and worlds that never were or are yet to come, and flays life of the temporary and the superficial to reveal what we in our surrender and hopeful naïveté have deemed what matters, what mutates, what lasts: love, art, the will of the individual, the strength of the collective, the desolate and tenebrous beauty of destruction, the toxic acid-burn of creativity. It is a legacy of madmen and dissidents made to survive until the next age of the world, when our ruins will tell the archaeologists of the future and the visitors from other worlds that we, too, were here.
To exist in a place never meant for man, to dig roots in the hardpack sand and stand day after day against the relentless sun, to breed the bastard brainchildren of our imaginations into something viable and real — this is mutation. And because the painting is the brush is the hand is the artist, Charlie Russell was the mutagen, an avatar of the anarchistic aether that spun galaxies from nothing and wove webs between stars. When the waters receded and the dove returned to Noah with the olive branch in its beak, it was the crow — not content with capture — that kept flying, seeking, searching for a place beyond the bloated horizon.
It had to land somewhere.
East Jesus is Charlie’s personal truth, and truth survives when the rest of us are all blown away.”
Personal Experience: Let me start off by saying that East Jesus is probably unlike anything you have ever experienced before. This place is brimming with thought-provoking details. I mean, this is REAL art, each piece having a powerful message and ALL being created from recycled material or death. These installations do what art is supposed to do: it leaves you feeling moved. I would imagine most people will have strong opinions about the artwork, the gallery (if you will) and Slab City in general (where East Jesus is located). I want to make it clear that Slab City is not for the light-hearted. This is a fascinating community that is filled with highly controversial beings–and I get the feeling they like it that way. Do your research before heading out here. I mean it. Make sure this area is for you. You can get a better grasp of this area on the Abandoned Homes of Salton City, Salton City and Salvation Mountain pages. My first tip is to go in COOL weather as it gets extremely hot out here. It’s hard to enjoy things when you’re burning up and dehydrated.
We were fortunate enough to get a tour by one of the residents, Mopar (otherwise known as the Wizard). Mopar is a colorful and knowledgeable individual who explained each installation to us and basically blew our minds with the genius behind each piece. We got a behind-the-scenes tour which gave us a glimpse into their housing facility. The place is head-to-toe art. So cool!
One of the most important tips I can give you no matter what is to come here with respect. If it’s not what you thought it would be, don’t get snobby. Be respectful as you truly have entered a different realm with its own set of rules. Be polite and don’t come empty handed! These people are living off of a next-to-nothing budget which is partially why they’re so innovative! Offer them stuff they can make art out of, food, money, booze, whatever.
This is a fascinating subculture that we are fortunate enough to live close-enough to witness firsthand. You will find all sorts of people out here, all with one motivation in mind: living free and away from ‘the man’ (or the beast as they refer to him as). You will find good people out here and extremely shady people. Trust your gut.
Meet our gracious guide, Mopar, aka the Wizard:
Most of the art is playing on their distaste for mainstream society:
(Above) Post-apocalyptic playground. (Below) Man, lost in his thoughts, attached to his “stuff” (not photographed). He is constructed of death and debris. Close-up shot on bottom left of bird skull:
(Bottom right) Silhouetted man constructed of butter knives attached to a coffin:
(Above) Man attached by neck, chained to all the junk he’s accumulated through life
(Below) TV Wall
“On the edge of a world saturated by media, in a desert outpost where it hardly seems to touch, Flip Cassidy has constructed a veritable wall of cynical-tongue-in-cynical-cheek commentary on this looming, pervasive force in our lives. This sculpture is made entirely from found and collected TV sets and computer monitors (most of which have had their circuit boards harvested for different art projects), and lets this castrated pile of technology complain silently to the desert and its passerby about how our society has decided to use it. As long as there is room to add to the breadth and height of the wall, it will remain a work in progress.”
Part of their residence:
The sphere on the bottom left represents man’s vices. There are all different items such as bullets & cds placed inside it:
(Above left) Fame Retardant, 2011
Ben Wolf and Heidi Tullmann combine the elements of scavenged materials, sign painting, and mural art in a collaborative installation. A dilapidated structure sinks into the ground as cropped sections of overlapped lettering and images add new layers of life to the forgotten materials, alluding to the months the artists spent in Detroit and New Orleans.
This bus got stuck in the sand so here is where it will stay:
The founder of East Jesus, Charles Russel’s memorial:
(Above left) Fainted Foundation, 2012 It’s a collage of various architectural influences mostly gathered from an abandoned apartment complex in Inglewood LA. The piece was installed in LA for a music/art/food festival. It is literally referencing a single house in it’s moment of collapse
Paint bucket flowers and mini-keg animals:
Half-brained man (left-brain) constructed of all technological material equipped with weapons to destroy:
The he & she toilets:
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