Thursday, 28 May 2009

Howard Finster - God's Last Red Light on Planet Earth

"One of 14 children, Howard Finster was born in Valley Head, DeKalb County, Alabama, on December 2nd, 1916, to Samuel William Finster, a sawmill lumberjack, and Lula Alice Henegar. At age three, Finster received the first of what would be many visions—his deceased sister, Abbie Rose, came to him on a floating stairway and told him that visions and other religious experiences would continue to play a vital role throughout his lifetime. At age 15, while riding on the back of a wagon, Finster received another vision in which God called on him to become a preacher. He soon began preaching at tent revivals all over Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. In 1940 he became pastor of Rock Bridge Baptist Church near DeSoto State Park and also preached at other small country churches, baptized new members, and washed the feet of churchgoers...

In 1961 Finster began to construct what would become his most famous accomplishment, the Plant Farm Museum House, or Paradise Gardens, as it is more popularly known, near his home in Chatooga County, Georgia. Finster filled the space, previously used as a community dump, with multifaceted constructions made with items he rescued from the trash.

These "found-object" sculptures and mosaics filled his new "Garden of Eden," as he termed the space. Structures include the Mirror House, Hubcap Tower, Bicycle Tower, Bible House, and the World Folk Art Church and feature items such as bicycles, old jewelry, shoes, medical equipment, and anything else he could salvage. All of the themes in Finster's garden environment are evangelical in nature and express his desire to bring his religious message to the public. He thus included hundreds of Biblical texts and mini-sermons in every space in the garden and its artworks. The garden quickly became a popular local tourist destination.

Finster continued preaching and working odd jobs until 1976, when he saw a vision of a face in a dab of paint on his thumb that commanded him to paint sacred art. He thereafter devoted his working life exclusively to painting and creating works of folk art. Many scholars and critics of art have compared his religious work to nineteenth-century tent-revival posters..."