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    From a Smudge of Paint and a Voice


    Art by Reverend Howard Finster

    Seven Devils. Reverend Howard Finster. Akron Art Museum.

    The Stranger from Another World, Reverend Howard Finster, was definitely not like most artists. Passing away in 2001, the Baptist Pastor originally from Alabama, began working in the 1960’s. Never with the intention of creating art or considering himself to be an artist, Finster began a roadside attraction displaying “the creations of mankind” in the yard of his home in Pennville, Georgia. The ongoing display of artifacts and inventions inherently served as a memorial to God and His creation of mankind. Now known as Paradise Garden, Reverend Howard Finster’s Museum and Park continue to stand today.

    What makes Paradise Garden so authentic is the vision that Howard Finster claimed to have in 1976. Growing up with a religious background, these visions were not particularly rare to Finster. As a young boy his first encounter involved seeing his deceased sister walking down a flight of stairs from a nearby cloud. However, the vision that changed Howard Finster’s work and well-being occurred later when he was sixty.

    While applying paint to a bicycle he saw the image of a face in a smudge of paint on his fingertip. A voice implored him to begin creating sacred art. Finster reacted in a way that most would, stating that he was not a professional artist nor did he know how to paint. The voice responded, “How do you know?”

    Reverend Howard Finster produced and numbered 46,991 pieces of art. In a folk-art like style, his works varied from plaster heads of religious figures and modern day vocalists of his time, to intricate paintings with hundreds of beads and various artifacts sewn in. From his well kept records of visions and other thoughts and he created pieces. The image of the face Finster saw on his fingertip continued to appear in his work, known as his “Resting Souls.”

    His reputation continued to grow. One of his greatest supporters, the Coca Cola Company, commissioned Finster to construct an eight-foot Coke bottle featured at the Olympics games in 1996. His work has been featured at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute, and the High Museum in Atlanta to name a few.

    Describing Reverend Howard Finster’s work does not do it justice. See his ingenuity and faith-inspired creations currently on exhibit at the Akron Art Museum from February 25th to June 3rd 2012. Curator, fellow artist and friend, Glen C. Davies, lectured Friday night (March 2nd) at the opening reception.

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