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Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden

Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden
Summerville, Georgia, United States

Howard Finster (1916 – 2001) was a Baptist minister from Georgia who claimed he had a message from God to spread the gospel through his art. In 1961, he purchased four acres of land and created Paradise Gardens. The site consists of the Bible House, the Hubcap Tower, the Bicycle Tower, and the Mirror House, which circle around the Folk Art Chapel, the largest structure at five stories tall. Finster created over 46,000 other works of art, many of which featured pop culture icons paired with religious iconography.  In the 1980s he made album covers for R.E.M. and Talking Heads and even appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Finster’s work is included many museum collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the American Folk Art Museum.

After Finster’s death in 2001, Paradise Gardens fell into disrepair for almost a decade. Chattooga County recognized the importance of his work and purchased the site. The Paradise Gardens Foundation formed in 2012 to restore and preserve Finster’s buildings and garden structures, and it is now open to the public.

Finster is not referenced at PMG, but Isaiah Zagar has frequently mentioned him as an influence on his work.

Resources:
Biography and photos
Video “Howard Finster: Man of Visions,” part of State of the Arts, by Don McGill and Susan Wallner (6 minutes, 1992)
Book Howard Finster, Stranger from Another World: Man of Visions Now on this Earth by Tom Patterson (1989)
Book Envisioning Howard Finster: The Religion and Art of a Stranger from Another World by Norman Girardot (2015)
Lesson plans