Biography

Folk artist Howard Finster (b. 1916, Valley Head, AL – d. 2001, Summerville, GA) is a renowned for his more than 40,000 paintings. Preaching from the age of 16, Finster became a reverend in 1940 and retired from it in 1965 to create what he called “sacred art.” Finster created the Paradise Gardens Park and Museum, located in Pennville, GA. In the early 1960s, Finster bought a parcel of swampy land, which he cleared and drained by hand. For the enjoyment of visitors, he planted edible and ornamental plants and began to construct concrete walkways, walls, and miniature mountains encrusted with thousands of found objects — everything from glass marbles to a jar containing a neighbor’s tonsils.  Beside the walkways, he modeled figurative concrete sculptures; over the years, he built many structures, including a tall tower of bicycle parts and a chapel, the World’s Folk Art Church. Through the 1980s, Paradise Garden flourished, bringing visitors from around the world who he would preach to visitors and perform his own songs, accompanying himself on his banjo. His work has been shown internationally, and there are permanent displays of his work at the Library of Congress and at the High Museum of Art. He has been featured in innumerable magazines and newspapers, including Time, Life, Southern Living, NY Times, Chicago Times, Rolling Stone, and People. He also painted album covers for famed rock musicians REM and Talking Heads, and was commissioned by the Coca-Cola company to paint an eight foot Olympic Coke bottle to represent the United States art exhibit for the Olympics in 1996.

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