Howard Finster (1916-2001) was a Baptist Reverend and artist from Summerville, Georgia. He created his tribute to inventors, the Plant Farm Museum, the rock- and junk-encrusted wonderland which became the focus of Finster’s life work. In 1976 a voice spoke to him: “Paint sacred art" - while he was applying paint to a refurbished bicycle.
He obeyed the voice, took a dollar from his billfold and used it as a model for his first "sacred painting:"George Washington".
Finster appeared on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson", where Howard played the banjo for Johnny and declared that there were only two "beauty" spots in the world, Hollywood, California and Summerville, Georgia.
Finster produced thousands of sermon-laden artworks with subjects representing popular culture icons like Elvis Presley, historical characters and evangelistic fantasy landscapes, most of them covered in Finster’s own hand-lettered words and biblical verse, providing glimpses of a celestial outer space world that Finster believed God had revealed to him. He created artwork for the album "Reckoning" by the Athens, Georgia based band R.E.M. Howard also appears in their music video "Radio Free Europe." Howard and Micheal Stipe of R.E.M. established a close relationship and Howard created a total of three album covers for them. Howard also created the cover for the Talking Heads 1985 Album "Little Creatures" which won Rolling Stone Magazine's cover of the year award.
Howard Finster was one of America’s most widely known and prolific self-taught artists, producing over 46,000 pieces of art before his death in 2001. Finster's art is owned by some of America's most prestigious museums like New York's American Folk Art Museum and Atlanta's High Museum of Art there are several books about Howard and he has been the subject of countless television and radio programs and magazine articles.
Yet his position remains polarized, suspended somewhere between awe for his tireless, faith driven creativity and reluctance by the art community to accept his place in the pantheon of contemporary art.
The exhibition "Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster" opens on January 29, 2010 at Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, Champaign, IL.