Psalms 34-7...

Paradise Gardens' Reverend Howard Finster, 84, dies

Arguably America's most well-known folk artist, Rev. Howard Finster, 84, died at a local hospital Monday, Oct. 22, 2001, of congestive heart failure.

According to the Paradise Gardens web site: "His body is buried at Silver Hill Cemetery in Chattooga County. His heart and his spirit is here at Paradise Gardens and in the souls of those he has touched. His sacred art will continue to reach many until the end of earth's time."

Finster's quirky, colorful 2D art pieces, created at his Paradise Gardens studio in Summerville, have inspired thousands of fans over the years. His mainstream exposure in the mid-1980s through association with the Talking Heads and REM -- fellow Georgia natives,fans and friends -- launched Finster into a publicity spotlight that never dimmed.

Rev. Finster, 1987.

His work today can be found in snooty art galleries around the world, and in the lobbies of corporate headquarters. One of his signature Coke bottle paintings hangs in the entrance of Atlanta's World of Coca Cola. His work is also exhibited in the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art. Throughout, Finster continued to preach his simple sermons in paint, cranking out thousands of variations on his Biblical and slice-of-life scenes.

Finster, born on a small farm in Alabama., began preaching tent revivals across the South at the age of 16.

He built Paradise Gardens in 1961 on a three acre patch of reclaimed swampland adjacent to his house in Pennville. For 40 years, Paradise Gardens has been a working studio and living gallery for Finster's whimsical creations. The attraction included a folk art chapel, various claptrap structures and sculptures, and the Reverend's latest works for sale.

His scratchy art musings might have gone unsung if not for commercial exposure on the cover of the Talking Heads "Little Creatures" album, and Finster's ongoing relationship with REM, documented in the music press and in the group's meandering early videos.

The gallery at Paradise Gardens will continue to operate. He is survived by his wife, Pauline Freeman Finster, five children, 15 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

[10/28/2001]

Junk dome.

Address:
200 N. Lewis St., Summerville, GA
Directions:
From US-27, two blocks south of the Walmart, turn at milepost 13 onto Rena St. Drive three blocks until the street ends, then turn right. Paradise Garden will be on the right, parking on the left.
Hours:
Tu-Su 11-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
706-808-0800
Admission:
Adults $15.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
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