Howard Finster

Howard Finster

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Howard Finster'
Start a new discussion about 'Howard Finster'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

Howard Finster was an American artist and Baptist
Baptist
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

 reverend from Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

. He claimed to be inspired by God to spread the gospel through the environment of Paradise Garden and over 46,000 pieces of art. His creations overlap folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

, outsider art
Outsider Art
The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut , a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by insane-asylum inmates.While...

, naïve art
Naïve art
Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true...

, and visionary art
Visionary art
Visionary art is art that purports to transcend the physical world and portray a wider vision of awareness including spiritual or mystical themes, or is based in such experiences.-Definition:...

. Finster first came to widespread notice in the 1980s with his album cover
Album cover
An album cover is the front of the packaging of a commercially released audio recording product, or album. The term can refer to either the printed cardboard covers typically used to package sets of 10" and 12" 78 rpm records, single and sets of 12" LPs, sets of 45 rpm records , or the front-facing...

 designs for bands such as R.E.M.
R.E.M.
R.E.M. was an American rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry. One of the first popular alternative rock bands, R.E.M. gained early attention due to Buck's ringing, arpeggiated guitar style and Stipe's...

 and Talking Heads
Talking Heads
Talking Heads were an American New Wave and avant-garde band formed in 1975 in New York City and active until 1991. The band comprised David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison...

.

Early life


Finster was born at Valley Head, Alabama
Valley Head, Alabama
Valley Head is a town in DeKalb County, Alabama, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 611.-Geography:Valley Head is located at .According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town has a total area of , all of it land....

 and lived on the family farm as one of 13 children. He attended school from age six into the sixth grade. He said he had his first vision at three years old, when he saw his recently deceased sister Abbie Rose walking down out of the sky wearing a white gown. She told him, "Howard, you're gonna be a man of visions."

He became "born again" at a Baptist
Baptist
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

 revival at the age of 13 and began to preach at 16. He gave the occasional sermon at local churches and wrote articles for the town newspaper, and became a full-time pastor at Rock Bridge Baptist Church in 1940. He later served at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Fort Payne, Alabama
Fort Payne, Alabama
Fort Payne is a city in DeKalb County, Alabama, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 12,938. The city is the county seat of DeKalb County. It bills itself as the "Official Sock Capital of the World."...

, shortly before venturing into full-time art.

Artistic works


Finster started building his first garden park museum in Trion, Georgia
Trion, Georgia
Trion is a town in Chattooga County, Georgia, United States. The population was 1,993 at the 2000 census. The estimated pop. as of 2006 is 2,001. Trion is the second largest incorporation is Chattooga County, which has a population of approximately 27,000...

 in the late 1940s. It featured an exhibit on the inventions of mankind in which Finster planned to display one of everything that had ever been invented, models of houses and churches, a pigeon flock and a duck pond.

When he ran out of land in Trion in 1961, he moved to Pennville, Georgia, near Summerville
Summerville, Georgia
Summerville is a city in Chattooga County, Georgia, United States. The population was 4,556 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Chattooga County.- Geography :Summerville is located at ....

, and bought four acres (16,000 m²) of land upon which to build the Plant Farm Museum "to show all the wonderful things o' God's Creation, kinda like the Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

". It features such attractions as the "Bible House," "the Mirror House," "the Hubcap Tower," "the Bicycle Tower," "the Machine Gun Nest," and the largest structure in the garden, the five-story "Folk Art Chapel". He also started putting up signs with Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 verses on them because "he felt that they stuck in people's heads better that way."

He retired from preaching in 1965 and focused all of his time on improving the Plant Farm Museum. In 1976, he had another vision to paint sacred art
Sacred art
Sacred art is imagery intended to uplift the mind to the spiritual. Sacred art involves the ritual and cultic practices and practical and operative aspects of the path of the spiritual realization within the bosom of the tradition in question....

. According to Finster, "..."one day I was workin' on a patch job on a bicycle, and I was rubbin' some white paint on that patch with this finger here, and I looked at the round tip o' my finger, and there was a human face on it... then a warm feelin' come over my body, and a voice spoke to me and said, 'Paint sacred art.'"

His images range from pop culture icons like Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

 to historical figures like George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 to religious images like The Devils Vice and "John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

" to his own visions. His paintings are colorful and detailed; they use flat picture plane without perspective and are often covered with words, especially Bible verses. Every painting also has a number: God had asked him to do 5,000 paintings to spread the gospel and Finster wanted to keep track.

He finished the 5,000 a few days before Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 in 1985, but continued painting and numbering until the day he died. By 1989, he was already numbering in the ten thousands.

He first started receiving outside publicity in 1975. That year, Atlanta, GA television station
Television station
A television station is a business, organisation or other such as an amateur television operator that transmits content over terrestrial television. A television transmission can be by analog television signals or, more recently, by digital television. Broadcast television systems standards are...

 Channel 5 ran a story and he also appeared in an Esquire
Esquire (magazine)
Esquire is a men's magazine, published in the U.S. by the Hearst Corporation. Founded in 1932, it flourished during the Great Depression under the guidance of founder and editor Arnold Gingrich.-History:...

magazine article that first dubbed his museum Paradise Garden. He made his first exhibition appearance in 1976 and painted four paintings for the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 in 1977. He was also selected to be part of the Venice Biennale
Venice Biennale
The Venice Biennale is a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years in Venice, Italy. The Venice Film Festival is part of it. So too is the Venice Biennale of Architecture, which is held in even years...

 in 1984.

Finster gained national fame after his collaborative work with Athens, Georgia
Athens, Georgia
Athens-Clarke County is a consolidated city–county in U.S. state of Georgia, in the northeastern part of the state, comprising the former City of Athens proper and Clarke County. The University of Georgia is located in this college town and is responsible for the initial growth of the city...

-based rock
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

 band R.E.M.
R.E.M.
R.E.M. was an American rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry. One of the first popular alternative rock bands, R.E.M. gained early attention due to Buck's ringing, arpeggiated guitar style and Stipe's...

. The group filmed the video for the group's debut single "Radio Free Europe
Radio Free Europe (song)
"Radio Free Europe" is a song by American alternative rock band R.E.M. "Radio Free Europe" was released as R.E.M.'s debut single on the short-lived independent record label Hib-Tone in 1981...

" in Finster's Paradise Gardens in 1983. The following year, the band's singer Michael Stipe
Michael Stipe
John Michael Stipe is an American singer and lyricist. He was the lead vocalist of the alternative rock band R.E.M.Stipe is noted and occasionally parodied for the "mumbling" style of his early career as well as his social and political activism. He was in charge of R.E.M.'s visual image; often...

 and Finster collaborated on a painting for the cover of their second album Reckoning
Reckoning (R.E.M. album)
Reckoning is the second album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released in 1984 by I.R.S. Records. Produced by Mitch Easter and Don Dixon, the album was recorded at Reflection Sound Studio in Charlotte, North Carolina over 16 days in December 1983 and January 1984...

. After that the band made the song "Maps and Legends" (in its third album Fables of the Reconstruction
Fables of the Reconstruction
Fables of the Reconstruction, also known as Reconstruction of the Fables, is the third studio album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released on the I.R.S...

) as an homage to Finster. Along with R.E.M., Finster also appeared in the documentary film
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 Athens, GA: Inside Out
Athens, GA: Inside Out
Athens, GA: Inside/Out is a documentary film about the mid-1980s music scene in Athens, Georgia, USA.The film features interviews and concert footage of local bands who were a part of the scene at the time of the documentation as well as local legends R.E.M., Pylon, and The B-52's. It also features...

, filmed in 1985, in which he tells the story of how he came to be an artist. Finster (and his art) also appears in the band's video for Radio Free Europe.

The band Talking Heads
Talking Heads
Talking Heads were an American New Wave and avant-garde band formed in 1975 in New York City and active until 1991. The band comprised David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison...

 commissioned a Finster painting for Little Creatures
Little Creatures (album)
Little Creatures is the sixth album by Talking Heads, released in 1985. The album examined themes of Americana and incorporated elements of country music, with many songs featuring the steel guitar...

in 1985 that was subsequently selected as album cover of the year by Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

magazine. Other artists to use Finster as an album cover designer include Memory Dean, Pierce Pettis
Pierce Pettis
- Biography :A former staff writer for PolyGram Publishing in Nashville, Pettis' musical career was started in 1979 when Joan Baez covered one of his songs, "Song at the End of the Movie", on her album Honest Lullaby...

, and Adam Again
Adam Again
Adam Again was a rock band founded and led by vocalist Gene Eugene, with Riki Michele on vocals, Paul Valadez on bass, Jon Knox on drums, Greg Lawless on guitar...

. In 1994, a portion of his Paradise Garden was installed as part of the permanent collection of Atlanta's High Museum
High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art , located in Atlanta, is the leading art museum in the Southeastern United States and one of the most-visited art museums in the world. Located on Peachtree Street in Midtown, the city's arts district, the High is a division of the Woodruff Arts Center.-History:The Museum was...

. Bill Mallonee
Bill Mallonee
Bill Mallonee is the songwriter and leader of Vigilantes of Love, an Americana/Alt-Country/Rock band from Athens, Georgia. Though the Vigilantes disbanded in 2001 and recently reformed in 2008, Mallonee continues writing, singing, and playing his music solo...

 of the Vigilantes of Love
Vigilantes of Love
Vigilantes of Love is a rock band fronted by Bill Mallonee with a large number of secondary players drawn from the musician pool in and around Athens, Georgia...

 (also a Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 from Athens, Georgia
Athens, Georgia
Athens-Clarke County is a consolidated city–county in U.S. state of Georgia, in the northeastern part of the state, comprising the former City of Athens proper and Clarke County. The University of Georgia is located in this college town and is responsible for the initial growth of the city...

) wrote a song inspired by Finster's artwork called The Glory and the Dream in 1994.

Howard Finster was responsible for introducing millions to outsider art
Outsider Art
The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut , a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by insane-asylum inmates.While...

, but even with his fame, he remained focused on religious outreach. He said of the Talking Heads
Talking Heads
Talking Heads were an American New Wave and avant-garde band formed in 1975 in New York City and active until 1991. The band comprised David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison...

 album, "I think there's twenty-six religious verses on that first cover I done for them. They sold a million records in the first two and a half months after it come out, so that's twenty-six million verses I got out into the world in two and a half months!"

The classification of his creations overlap folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

 and outsider art
Outsider Art
The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut , a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by insane-asylum inmates.While...

 for the origin, naïve art
Naïve art
Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true...

 and visionary art
Visionary art
Visionary art is art that purports to transcend the physical world and portray a wider vision of awareness including spiritual or mystical themes, or is based in such experiences.-Definition:...

 for the content.

External links