This amazing site-specific art form is the 20-plus year work of Michael Kahn and Leda Livant along with scores of friends who, over the years, gathered and recycled just about anything at all to construct the forms, structures, grottos, caves, galleries, living pods and gardens that comprise the Southwest's most stunning site-specific art installation.
The non-profit's caretakers, Tracy and Ryan, are working with Yavapai County to acquire permits to allow the public access; meanwhile, they work on funding to secure the land and preserve the site. Originally "leased" to Michael and Leda, the 3-plus acres on Oak Creek became home and sanctuary to the artists, who lovingly worked the landscape in a manner reminiscent of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers in Los Angeles.
Driving into the site and onto the grounds of Eliphante is surreal - the Oak Creek must first be forded, and then you walk onto softly-rolling hillocks of moss - or is that some desert grass? No, it's the much more prosaic "astro turf" that blankets the entire site, forming a pseudo-lush Alice's Wonderland playground.
The various buildings on the site are called HippoDome, Eliphante and Pipe Dreams, all surrounded by freeform sculptural works, ponds, out buildings, sinuous walls, benches, swings, lights, and pathways. A charming story-tellers nook, a mini amphitheater of stones and tiered astro-turf plinths, is announced by a playful shovel-cum-signpost.
Experiencing the partly-underground spaces is otherworldly - chilly, quiet and infused with a celestial light from the stained glass, soft burlap folds and refractive mylar overhead. Walls are obsessively-detailed friezes of mosaic, marbles, glass, stones, wood blocks, mirrors and branches. Passages wind back on themselves. Doors are hidden, surprises abundant.
The eclectic history and cultural significance of Eliphante have elevated Cornville to the unlikely status of art Mecca. ~ Jacques Laliberté