Monday, February 1, 2010

Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster

STRANGER IN PARADISE: THE WORKS OF REVEREND HOWARD FINSTER opened January 28th at the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign, IL. This is an exhibition you should not miss if you like works that are visionary and self-taught. You see, Finster was not just an artist, he was special— a “stranger from another world,” a shape-shifter, a shaman who traveled between time and space to bring meaning and voice to us mortals of the world. There have been others like him—all put here for special reasons and purpose. Elvis Presley was one, John F. Kennedy, Rev. Martin Luther King, Ghandi—well, you get the idea. While some shape-shifters achieve greater things than others, Finster did his part to preach his word of peace and love.

If you don’t believe the above, and I’d understand if you did not, perhaps you’d just rather read the catalog.

Following is from the exhibition checklist:
An evangelistic preacher in paint and self-proclaimed Man of Visions, Reverend Howard Finster became one of the most widely known and prolific self-taught artists, producing over 46,000 pieces of art by his death in 2001. Finster often referred to himself as “a stranger from another world” and “God’s last red light on the planet earth.” He saw himself as a sacred artist, fulfilling his visionary prophesies revealed to him by God through a heavenly, outer space world. Thus Finster believed he was to disperse warnings to people to save their souls from the horrors of hell. These experiences were very real to Finster and provided a seemingly limitless variety of images for his art, and content for his rapid fire, stream of consciousness monologues.

In the mid-1960s, Finster began building a roadside park, first known as the Plant Farm Museum, an attraction meant to display all of “the inventions of mankind.” This soon transformed into an outdoor museum of collaged concrete sculpture, collections of unusual junk and recycled machine parts, hanging sun catchers, and buildings covered in paintings and signs. Later, in an 1975 article in Esquire magazine, it was dubbed “Paradise Garden,” and the name stuck.

Finster said he was “God's junk man.” Endlessly inventive, he took all manner of salvaged junk and discarded items, and using his ingenuity and tireless energy, created expressions of his personal visions. In his poem for the garden, he stated, “I took the pieces that you threw away and put them together by night and day, washed by the rain, dried by the sun, a million pieces all in one.”

This exhibition provides an in-depth survey of Finster’s career, covering the variety of themes inherent in his work, much of it relating to his visionary experiences, including: Visions of Other Worlds, Sermons in Paint, Historical and Cultural Heroes and The Plant Farm Museum [Paradise Garden].

There is an accompanying exhibition catalogue available for purchase.

February 23, 5:30 pm:
Film Screening and Panel Discussion • KAM Auditorium I Can Feel Another Planet in My Soul: Strange Visions. Wondrous Art. The Remarkable World of Howard Finster • A showing of excerpts from a documentary film still in progress on Howard Finster followed by a panel discussion with Steven Pattie, executive producer/program creator; Glen C. Davies, exhibition curator; Jim Arient, collector; and Randy Ott, collector

March 4, 5:30 pm:
Guest Lecture
“An Inside Look at Outsider Art Environments: Monumental Expressions of Devotion, Evangelism, and Salvation,” a talk by Lisa Stone, author, adjunct associate professor, and curator of the Roger Brown Study Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Co-sponsored by Lorado Taft Lectureship on Art; School of Art + Design; Department of Landscape Architecture; and Krannert Art Museum

A fully illustrated catalog will include essays by the exhibition curator, Jim Arient (representative of the Arient family, who are principle lenders to the exhibition), Phyllis Kind (President of the Phyllis Kind Gallery), and Norman J. Girardot (Professor of Religious Studies, Lehigh University) and a checklist of works in the exhibition.

Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion
January 29 through March 28, 2010

Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
July 24 through September 26, 2010

Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art,
Auburn University, Auburn, AL
December 11, 2010 to March 12, 2011

Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, FL
April 22 through August 28, 2011

Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, TN
November 10, 2011 through January 15, 2012

Photos above by Dr. James F. (see them here.)


Elizabeth said...

You captured my interest. I looked around and found that on youtube are several items of his work for those who are interested.

Thank you so much for mentioning this exhibition.

Paul D'Ambrosio said...

Wonderful gallery shots, John! And what a fascinating artist. I made several trips to Paradise Garden in the 1990s and spoke to Howard once (over the phone, unfortunately). He was an amazing person, and was completely committed to his mission and his art. I think the works you show demonstrate the intensity of his vision.

Thanks again!

Maureen said...

Love Finster, I have several pieces by Peter Mars who did collaborative work with him that are also very interesting.

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