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Self-Taught Art
Folk Artists

Howard Finster
Born in Valley Head, Alabama
December 2, 1916

The Reverend Howard Finster is married with five children and he now resides in Summerville, Georgia. Reverend Finster is best known for his sermon art and for his Paradise Garden environment which is an ongoing expression of his religious convictions. In 1965 he heard a voice from the Lord which told him to transform two acres of land into a Paradise Garden. Using junk, broken dolls, tools and clocks he embedded these materials in concrete walls which surround a tower thirty feet high built of bicycle parts and his own church called the World's Folk Art Church. Paradise Garden is an ongoing project expressing his religious conviction and creativity and he explains that he assembled the pieces for a purpose — to mend a broken world.

In 1976 he had a vision of a tall man at his gate in which the Lord directed him to begin painting "sermon art" because, "preaching don't do much good; no one listens — but a picture gets on a brain cell." The voice commanded him to paint this sacred art and to create individual paintings and portraits of personal heroes, religious and patriotic images and to pass on his spiritual messages to the world.

Finster's paintings have evangelical themes and inspirational images which come from his own interpretations of the bible. Angels and saints as well as earthly characters are portrayed. All of his paintings contain witty, printed quotations known as "Finsterisms." Several of his paintings show how he was influenced by the imagery on postcards or popular magazines. Some of his creations have joined the contemporary world through his paintings for the album covers of the rock groups REM and The Talking Heads.

Finster makes art out of nail heads, gourds, bottles, mirrors, plastic, snow shovels and even an old cadillac, however the majority of his works are usually made out of plywood or heavy canvas with the works ranging in size from a few square inches to 8–9 feet in height. His art is original, innovative and expressive. He believes he came from another world and is often referred to as "This Stranger From Another World." Finster believes the more he paints, the more people he can save. The works are presented in many forms, sometimes called "paintings in tongue," visions of other worlds where people live in harmony.


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