EliphanteMichael Kahn (1936 - 2007), Leda Livant-Kahn (1925)
About the Artist/Site
In 1977, Michael Kahn (March 30, 1936–December 2007) and Leda Livant (b. September 17, 1925) moved west from Provincetown, Massachusetts, looking for a new way of life and a place for Michael, a former student at New York’s Art Students League and the National Academy of Design, to paint seven big canvases. Drawn to the spectacular red-rock landscape near Sedona, they soon met Bob and Joan Crozier, generous and kindly owners of a large tract of property, who were looking for caretakers. Although Kahn and Livant decided not to take that job, they hit it off with the landowners, who allowed them to stay on a three-acre portion of their property. First camping out and living out of the truck that brought them west in 1979, mostly out of necessity to provide protection from the elements, Michael became inspired by the rocky landscape and natural abstractions that surrounded them. The couple began to build what was originally intended to be their home along the banks of Oak Creek, and completed it nearly five years later, although they never lived there. The name for the building came from Bob Crozier, who commented casually on the resemblance of the completed structure to an elephant, although the builders had not noticed this during construction. The couple next built the Hipadome, a building which seemed to have a resemblance to a Hippopotamus, and this became their home. They continued to build for almost three decades; another major structure was known as Pipe Dreams, a subterranean gallery softened with fabrics, carpet assemblages, and mosaics of stained glass and pieces of ceramics.
Kahn and Livant built most of the structures by dragging rocks up from the nearby creek and over the hill from the neighboring wash, by forming the driftwood left by the spring floods, and by reclaiming community construction wastes into various domes, niches, and shelters. Understanding that there needed to be means to protect the site after they were gone, in 1987 they established the nonprofit Eliphante, Limited. It is currently in a lease-to-own agreement with the landowners in order to secure a portion of the greater parcel, thereby securing the environment and continuing with preservation and public access efforts. In 1994, Eliphante was included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s catalog of SOS! (Save Outdoor Sculpture!) which, although it enhances public awareness of the site, provides no funding or protection. Ryan Matson and Tracy Schinagel are currently caretaking and assisting in the preservation of this site through the nonprofit, and expressions of interest—and donations—from the public are encouraged.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Update, May 2020: Michael Kahn passed away in 2007. Leda Livant-Kahn lived on site until 2009 when she moved to Cottonwood, Arizona. Per the website www.eliphante.com, Eliphante is a private residence (not open to the public), and it is cared for by the nonprofit organization Eliphante, Ltd, established in 1987 to preserve and restore the art and works of Michael Kahn and Leda Livant-Kahn.
Map & Site Information
Cornville, Arizona, 86325 us
Latitude/Longitude: 34.717799 / -111.921544