Howard Finster (1916- 2001)
Howard Finster is arguably the best known contemporary folk artist. His monumental creation, Paradise Garden, situated northwest of Atlanta, Georgia, has drawn tens of thousands of visitors. The Garden is composed of four acres of hand-constructed buildings, mosaic walkways, paintings, and found-object assemblages. Born in Alabama, Finster began preaching the gospel as a teenager while working in factories, doing carpentry, and repairing bicycles. He had his first vision at the age of three, and he believes this was a sign he was to become a visionary artist. In 1961, he began work on the Paradise Garden. Fifteen years later, while he was repairing a bicycle, a vision of a face appeared on his paint-covered fingertip. This he interpreted as a command to help people see the word of God through his paintings. His work contains visions of heaven with mansions and angels, imaginary planets, historical figures, and icons from popular culture. Finster, a man of boundless energy, was extraordinarily prolific, often painting through the night. His works are signed with the date and time of their completion and numbered sequentially. His artistic accomplishments and colorful personality brought Finster much fame and popularity. He was the first folk artist represented in the Venice Biennale and also made an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. His work has also been used for album covers for R.E.M. and The Talking Heads.