American Artist Known for Unique Vision
MELBOURNE, FLA. — The Visionary Works of the Reverend Howard Finster, a new exhibition at Florida Institute of Technology’s Foosaner Art Museum, opens Nov. 14.
Finster (American, 1916 – 2001), was a self-taught, visionary artist who 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 Summerville, Georgia.
The Foosaner exhibition includes over 50 paintings, prints and sculptures as well as an interactive gallery and a short trailer from the award-winning Art West Film documentary Paradise Garden by Ava Leigh Stewart.
In the mid-1960s, Finster bought a parcel of swampy land and quit preaching to devote himself fulltime to what is 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. In 1975, Finster gained national exposure when his garden was featured in Esquire magazine. The following year he received a vision from God to “paint sacred art.”
Combining historical and pop culture icons with bible verses and visionary prophesies, his paintings were rich in formal and poetic invention and laced with humor and personal and universal imagery. Finster’s most powerful and original contributions to art were his garden, the sculptural and architectural works within the garden, and the powerful paintings of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Paradise Garden flourished throughout the 80s, bringing visitors from around the world to Summerville, 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.
There are several programs related to this exhibition, as well.
- “Howard Finster’s Vision House,” A Lecture by David Leonardis. 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, Harris Community Auditorium. Free with museum admission.
- Workshop: “Everything is Sacred: Stories of Everyday.” 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, Renee Foosaner Education Center. $120 member/$135 non-member.
- Documentary Film: “Paradise Garden, Howard Finster’s Legacy.” 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, Harris Community Auditorium. Free
- Finster Family Day. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, Foosaner Art Museum. Hands-on activities for kids of all ages. Free.
- Interactive Gallery: Paradise Garden Redux. In this ongoing experience, participants are encouraged to honor Finster’s magical Paradise Garden by helping build a felt replica of his inspired structures. Friends young and old may contribute to the felt mural using pre-designed shapes, symbols and imagery from Finster’s work.