Howard Finster: Paradise Before and After the Fall
...Howard Finster â€“ the self-taught artist who brought the world to his doorstep by creating a junk-sculpture yard show in his backyard swamp and making thousands of visionary paintings â€“ was in his sixty-fifth year when I first met him. Sixty-five is the traditional age of retirement in the United States, but it was apparent to me from the moment we shook hands that the Reverend Howard Finster was a man of boundless energy, nowhere near ready to retire. Confirming evidence was everywhere as he led me and a couple of poets â€“ Jonathan Williams and Tom Meyer â€“ through his labyrinthine, two-and-a-half-acre â€˜Plant Farm Museumâ€™ and â€˜Inventions of Mankindâ€™ display, as he originally called his environment in northwest Georgia.
It was late in March 1980, and all three of us were having our first look at the place. It had been a constantly expanding work-in-progress for almost twenty years by that time, and it was the most highly energized landscape Iâ€™d ever seen â€“ a dizzying, dazzling maze of sculptural monuments, heavily embellished outbuildings, found-object assemblages, elaborately painted signs, and flowering plants, interconnected by a series of inlaid concrete walkways subdivided by meandering streams of manually channeled swamp water, under the shade of large native pine and hardwood trees.