Sermon on the Mount, Desert Christ Park, Yucca Valley CA
Overlooking the high desert town of Yucca Valley in Southern California, Desert Christ Park features larger-than-lifesize, snow-white sculptures portraying scenes of Christ's life and teachings. They were created by artist-sculptor Antone Martin a half-century ago as a world peace shrine. Martin died in 1961 at the age of 74 after completing more than 50 statues. The individual figures weigh anywhere from three to sixteen tons each. Martin started sculpting the steel-reinforced, concrete figures during the height of the A-bomb scare in the mid-1940s, hoping to construct pieces that that could withstand a nuclear bomb.
1968, photographer Ryan Herz was on his way to the Giant Rock UFO Convention
when he came across a small sign pointing him off the highway to
Desert Christ Park. He was struck by the passion of whoever had
made the creation of the place his life’s work. Ryan’s Catholic
training, while giving him a great love and respect for the images of
religion, was far behind him. But the juxtaposition of a benevolent Jesus
in the secular present was very appealing.
On display concurrently in the Project Room::
the End of the Pavement: Churches of the American South
Miracle Temple Church of Christ Apostolic” Charleston County, South
“The title and inspiration for At the End of the Pavement comes from my great Aunt Hazel who was the local florist and my best friend." Sturges explains, "She would take me along on her deliveries to “fix flowers” for funerals and weddings. “Lets go for a ride to the end of the pavement," she would say on those hot summer evenings. Although the term originated in a time when the paved roads ceased at the town limits, the essence of it was still present. As I grew up. I realized how unique the churches in the South were and decided to combine my passion for photography with my love of the little churches of Franklin County and the South.”
Sturges’ documentary style of photography calls to mind Minor White
and Walker Evans’ images of the South in the 1930’s. A timeless
yet fragile slice of an almost forgotten past.