Howard Finster (1916-2001) is widely considered to be the grandfather of contemporary American folk art. The youngest of thirteen children, Finster began preaching as a teenager in rural Alabama - but it was not until 1976, at the age of 60, that he saw a dab of paint on his finger become a face which commanded him to "make sacred art." He spent the last 25 years of his life, until his death in 2001 at age 84, painstakingly creating Paradise Garden at his home in Summerville, Georgia. Paradise Garden, which he said was "commissioned from God," was a lush, modern-day version of the Garden of Eden, a rendering of his fantastic visionary world. Finster created and numbered more than 50,000 pieces of original art which combine images and text, and which feature such icons as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and George Washington. All of his works were a part of his crusade to save the world before it was too late. Finster's ability to spread his views was indeed impressive: he appeared on the Tonight Show wtih Johnny Carson; his artwork decorates album covers of popular rock groups such as R.E.M. and the Talking Heads; and thousands of tourists make the pilgrimage to Paradise Garden every year.
Below is Finster‘s own best epitaph:
"I am Howard Finster, a stranger from another world. My father and mother, my sisters and brother, my wife, my children, my grandchildren have really never figured me out. For my kingdom is not of this world. Only my Father in heaven knows me on this planet. And that‘s why I have been strong and happy. When my work is finished I will go back to the other world.”
High Museum of Art Howard Finster collection