Artist Statement

Welcome to Paradise Garden A 2003 collection of photographs from Howard Finster's gardens Howard Finster (1916-2001) was a Baptist preacher turned folk artist from Summerville, Georgia. Finster was a man of visions and in 1976 claimed to have seen a vision from God directing him to begin creating sacred art: "And one day I was workin' on a patch job on a bicycle, and I was rubbin' some white paint on that patch with this finger here, and I looked at the round tip o' my finger, and there was a human face on it... then a warm feelin' come over my body, and a voice spoke to me and said, 'Paint sacred art.'" The voice directed him to create 5,000 unique pieces of sacred art with a goal of spreading the gospel. Finster began painting these pieces of art, each with an evangelical message in the form of a Bible verse or simple spiritual aphorism. Many of Finster's paintings incorporated well-known icons like Elvis Presley or Coca Cola bottles and before long he gained some notoriety as a folk artist. By the time he completed his 5,000th piece of art in 1985 he was well known, often interviewed by such magazines as Esquire and Rolling Stone and commissioned to create album art for musicians like R.E.M and The Talking Heads. By the time of his death in October of 2001 he had completed over 46,000 pieces of original art work. In 1961 Finster bought four acres of land in Summerville, Georgia to build a place "to show all the wonderful things o' God's Creation, kinda like the Garden of Eden." In the 40 years before his death, these four acres became home to countless works of art. Some of the attractions there are the Bicycle Tower, the Trail of the Unknown Body, and the largest structure in the garden, the five-story Folk Art Chapel. Finster mounted signs with Bible verses on them throughout the garden and painted verses and messages directly on structures. He called the place Paradise Garden. These photographs were made in Paradise Garden in 2003 for a tribute festival held for Howard Finster in Brooklyn, NY. I have tried in each to capture Finster's own vision by emphasizing the messages he integrated into his sacred art. The painted plywood frames are modeled after his own primitive painting style. If you would like to find out more about Howard Finster or visit the gardens in Summerville, Georgia, you can get more information at finster.com. If you'd like to see more of my artwork, photography, and various ramblings, please visit loapher.com. Andy Montgomery