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The Visionary Works of the Reverend Howard FinsterThe Visionary Works of the Reverend Howard Finster

November 14 – January 10, 2016

Howard Finster (American, 1916 – 2001) was a visionary artist. A self-appointed minister and a self-taught artist, he believed he was on a mission from God to spread the word of the Gospel and paint sacred art. An art world phenomenon, Finster is known through his unique paintings and for his landmark Paradise Garden.

 In the mid-60s, Finster bought a parcel of swampy land and quit preaching to devote himself fulltime to his Plant Farm Museum, now known as Paradise Garden. He planted a variety of trees and plants and constructed concrete walkways, walls, and miniature mountains encrusted with thousands of found objects, mainly to channel his creative urges and to please his family and community. Throughout the property are hand lettered signs Finster painted to spread his message of Christian salvation. In 1975, Finster gained national exposure when his museum was featured in Esquire magazine. The following year he received a vision from God, instructing him to spread his religious message by painting sacred art and specifically, to create 5,000 paintings. He combined historical and pop culture icons with bible verses and visionary prophesies, the paintings were rich in formal and poetic invention and laced with humor, personal and universal imagery. Finster’s most powerful and original contributions to art were his garden, the sculptural and architectural works within the garden, such as his bicycle frame contractions and the World’s Folk Art Church, and the powerful paintings of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Paradise Garden flourished throughout the 80s, bringing visitors from around the world to Pennville, Georgia, and international fame to its creator. He was profiled in magazines, asked to design record covers, participated in exhibitions, and was sought by collectors. His appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show signaled Finster’s entrance into mainstream American culture. By the time of his death in 2001, Finster had created over 46,000 numbered pieces. Many of his paintings now reside with collectors and in museum collections. Recognized today as a major artist, Finster transcends artistic categorization. His important body of work lives up to the most frequently quoted inscription from his garden, “I took the pieces you threw away, and put them togather [sic] by night and day, washed by rain and dried by sun, a million pieces all in one.”

This exhibition includes paintings, prints, sculptures and a short trailer from the award winning documentary Paradise Garden by Ava Leigh Stewart. All of the works in the exhibition are from the collection of John Denton.

 Image credit: Howard Finster, The Super Powers (#4000.581), 1985. Tractor enamel on wood, 48 x 48 inches. Collection of John Denton. Photo by Josh Kerzie.

 

 

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