HOWARD FINSTER 1916 – 2001

The Reverend Howard Finster was an obsessively evangelical preacher who used art as a means to convey messages of spirituality to the public. He claimed that he was instructed by the Lord to transform the two acres of swampland around his small shop in Georgia into a “Paradise Garden”, a religion-inspired environment made from “other people’s junk.” In 1976, inspired by another visionary experience where a face appeared on his finger and told him to “Paint sacred art”, he abandoned all other work and began to produce paintings using enamel on wood, burlap and metal. Combining images and words to illustrate biblical texts, each painting is a sermon, expressing the message of the Lord. In time, Finster’s art became more complex, his flat graphic imagery accompanied by more detailed intricate elements, as well as his signature evangelical text. His subjects also became increasingly diverse: his later paintings contain references to UFOs and visiting aliens, Elvis Presley, war and politics, as well as countless biblical evocations. Finster worked at a fast pace, producing thousands of works that were each carefully numbered: from the most complex of visionary paintings and painted objects, to small, flat wooden figures he mass-produced with his family’s help.


Caption: Cross of Hell, #2312, 1982, courtesy Arient Family Collection


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