August 01, 2012

Photo Essay: Unwanted Christ in a Desert Park (Updated for 2022)

[Last update 11/11/22 6:54 PM PT—Desert Christ Park doesn't look like this anymore. They've done an amazing job of repairing/restoring the statues and creating walkways and various other paths and landscaping to make it a proper park. But for the sake of posterity, I'll keep this post up on my site. Until I manage to put up a new post with the current state of the park, please enjoy the following as a time capsule of what it looked like in 2012.]

The desert has always been a receptive home to those who aren't welcome elsewhere. Some retreat here temporarily for a break, and others come home here to stay.

Sculptor Frank Antone Martin had dreamed of placing a giant, steel-reinforced concrete statue of Jesus perched over the rim of the Grand Canyon, but his pitch was rejected because of the separation of church and state.

In 1951, Frank accepted an offer from Reverend Eddie Garver to bring his "Unwanted Christ" to Yucca Valley, where it would be placed atop a hill (not exactly the Grand Canyon, but something) for all to see.

Over the next 10 years, more statues followed, which were eventually arranged into an outdoor sculpture garden which is now Desert Christ Park, open to the public. Frank died in 1961 before all of the sculptures could be completed, and now they stand unfinished, just as he left them.

Visiting Desert Christ Park wasn't a religious experience for me (and it wasn't intended to be), but it was meditative and inspiring. Some of the faces are cracked, but they still smile. White plaster yellows and peels. Some fingers are missing, but hands still reach outstretched.

If you're not in awe of the Biblical implications, you can be amazed at the feat of hoisting this three-ton, ten-foot Jesus up the hill and building a whole community around him.

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