This is not an altar, but it's worth noting as a billboard advertisement employing altar-like imagery. Last night, I was in the living room while Lauren watched Orange is the New Black and realized it's probably something I would like to watch. Coincidence?
This one may be at the outer limits of altar-dom, depending on just how fluid you feel like being. I would've included it no matter what, but what really clinched it was the "inscription" (Can caves have inscriptions? Message, graffiti, art, etc.) inside the cave, which reads:
This itself is religious / It demarcates a sacred space
It's a note that's frustrating for a few reasons, the first of which is, don't pretentiously tell me via vandalism what is a sacred space. The second, keeping the first reason in mind, is that it's true. Caves have been sacred spaces since humans began to formulate both art and sacredness, which Werner Herzog can narrate to you in Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Not only that, but a major, major point of altars is the ability to demarcate sacred space as you choose, more or less where you choose, by the mere decision to arrange objects and text.
This particular cave is in Two Harbors, on Catalina Island. Mom came to visit from Vermont, and treated us to a two-night stay. In the last hours before getting the ferry back to LA, we rock-scrambled just a teensy bit off the sandy beach in the harbor. The cave is small, with shells and rocks people have tucked into its walls' natural nooks and crannies, and someone lined its edge with rocks.
It's no surprise, but Joshua Tree and its surrounding area (Yucca Valley, Landers, Pioneertown) is replete with altars and altar-like installations, from Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Museum to the Joshua Tree Health Foods counter.
This altar-like piece is against the wall inside (a detail of, if you will) Noah Purifoy's Carousel, one of over 20 assemblage sculpture installations in the Outdoor Desert Art Museum off of Blair Lane, in what feels like the absolute middle of nowhere. Lauren and I just barely got tickets for the day's last sound bath at the Integratron, and with two hours to romp around before vibration-bathing and a map graciously provided by an Integratron crew member, we went rumbling down the dirt roads to find Noah's museum, a High Desert Test Site.
While many of the constructions and pilings are arranged like altars or memorials, this particular section of Carousel stands out for its resemblance to early Christian altarpieces, and for the three small wooden crosses at the top. Crosses and groupings of crosses are found throughout the ODAM.
Bottom left image from Noah Purifoy Foundation website, bottom right image from High Desert Test Site website.
We passed this memorial to Dennis Ray Caton (1/29/1974 - 4/2/2010) on Border Ave between the ODAM and the Integratron. According to the Hi-Desert Star, Caton was killed in a motorcycle accident at this intersection. A handful of tiny motorcycles are at the base of the cross. I borrowed Lauren's phone to take pictures, which are oddly glowing, either because of her phone's temperament or the unusual misty, rainy weather, or a combination of both.
This is the "multi-cultural" altar inside the Integratron, with a sign above it that reads: This "multicultural" altar is filled with sacred objects and mementos left behind by people who were deeply touched by their experience in the Integratron.
A small counter altar inside of a health and wellness store (mostly teas and tinctures) next door to Natural Sisters Cafe along the main drag in Joshua Tree.
This roadside memorial is off of Old Woman Springs Road between Joshua Tree and Landers. It marks the site where, according to the Hi-Desert Star, 11-year-old Jeffrey Matzek and his father Leslie Matzek were killed in a car crash in 2011.
Drove by Sunset + Coronado in Silverlake/Echo Park borderlands maybe a week ago and saw an elderly Latino man tending to an altar-like structure, and finally made it back today. Turns out it's not an altar, shrine, or memorial, but "Don Pedro's Jardin", a small, well-kept garden with a wooden house-shaped structure as its centerpiece. The house had two signs, two TY Beanie Babies, a lot of Christmas ornaments, and many plants growing up its frame. At the base of the house there was a dish of water as a reflecting pool, as well as a molcajete. Among the flora I recognized was corn, poinsettias, sunflowers, nasturtiums, aloe vera, and roses.
Driving around Echo Park, Aerienne asks me, "Do you know about Randyland?" My answer is a definitive "NO," and then, "What is that?" She tells me she found Randyland walking around the neighborhood one day, and we feel out directions since she's not sure exactly where it is.
Randyland is at 1646 Lemoyne St. We park below the towering glass structure, in front of a street mural with "LA", rolling waves, and beams of light radiating from the sun on the horizon. I don't notice at first that the bottles form a Virgen de Guadalupe, but I get there. As I'm taking pictures, Randy comes out to greet me and Aerienne, and is very happy to have visitors.
Randy explains to us that each bottle in the sculpture, named Phantasma Gloria, is actually a lens - the water inside refracts the sunlight passing through. He picks out a yellow bottle near the Virgen's heart, and points out that you can see a tree in it, only backwards and upside down. The Virgen herself is 24 feet tall, and the entire sculpture is 50 feet tall from the street. Randy tells us that the best time of day to visit is around 10am, when the bottles shine sunlight the most brilliantly. Before we leave, he generously gives us each 2 postcards and 2 magnets - one to keep, and one to pass on to someone else.
Randy began building in 2001, and has been working on Phantasma Gloria and Randyland since - you can read more about him and his work in this LA Times article.
Defunct pay phone altar (?) in Hollywood.
These are not exactly altars, but are similar in form! Walking out on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, there were four temporary "installations" whose builders were nowhere in sight. Presumably constructed by the local homeless, passersby read signs inviting them to coin toss (MAKE A WISH) and chip in for a meal (JUST PLAIN HUNGRY). My favorite part was the meal of sand.
One Yelper writes, "Seeing the homeless blankets on the side of it so you can toss change to them is one of the most inventive ways I've seen to collect spare change."
Salvation Mountain just outside of Niland, CA, is someplace I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. Leonard Knight was born in 1931 in Vermont, and dreamed of visiting California from childhood. In 1984, he settled in Niland and began to work on Salvation Mountain. The mountain in these photos is Leonard’s second mountain - his first was built from cement and sand, and collapsed.
Knight’s primary construction materials are adobe and paint, and the next-door museum is made from hay bales, utility poles, and salvaged wood, among other things. Two small structures are adjoined to the mountain, between the mountain and the museum. These are modeled after Native American hogans.
Leonard Knight is 81 years old and has been experiencing health problems for the last year, which have prohibited him from actively maintaining Salvation Mountain. The non-profit Salvation Mountain, Inc. has been set up to raise funds and volunteer-power to keep the mountain vibrant.
Rik Martino aka Franco Massimo aka the Birdman of Silverlakeoccupies the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Madison, at the Cahuenga Branch public library. Martino has been posting fliers and handmade advertisements for some time now, becoming a recognizable local character, but his message became more desperate when animal control allegedly took and killed his pet pigeons last year. He kept the birds in a cage on the street where he was sleeping at the time.
Martino’s public interventions are frequent and, by now, common. But this particular installation was peculiarly altar-like in form, with fake roses, prayers, and a balloon, arranged around a central platform made of cardboard boxes and plywood. Martino’s signs proclaim his call for Animal Control to be brought to justice, and condemns the PATH program for not adequately helping the homeless.