Friday, November 16, 2007

Saving a Folk Art Treasure: Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens

For fans of altrock, circa the '80s and '90s, the name Howard Finster ought to mean something.

Finster was the Baptist preacher and bicycle repairman from Georgia whose stunning folk art -- Southern-fried visions of angels and devils, historical figures, strange faces -- adorned the covers of albums by R.E.M. ("Reckoning" and others) and Talking Heads ("Little Creatures"), among other rock artists.

His work nicely dovetailed with the sense and sensibility of Athens, Ga.'s R.E.M., I think: The band's sound, and many of the images created by Stipe's words, reflected a Southern gentility (and religion-rooted worldview) gone to seed and/or evolving in unexpected new directions. One of the band's early, quirky singles was "Losing My Religion," its title both a Southern expression and a statement of (loss of) faith.

Howard Finster's home, the Vision House, in Pennville, Ga., is being renovated. But his adjacent Paradise Gardens, and its World's Folk Art Church, are in disrepair, according to a report in the New York Times.

"Even as the house is being rebuilt with new walls, floors, fresh paint and a new deck, the World's Folk Art Church, a chapel with a 16-sided cupola that is the gardens' signature structure, slumps precariously, and one of its balconies has collapsed," Brenda Goodman writes in a piece published 10/25.

For the full story, click here. For more images from Paradise Gardens, courtesy of the NY Times, go here.

Also worth visiting are the "official" Howard Finster home page, and "Howard Finster: Man of Visions," a site organized by the University of Virginia. Another one: The "official" web home of Howard Finster's Paradise Gardens Park & Musueum, a nonprofit.


Howard Finster Vision House said...

how about a link to

It's a great photo tour of the great work being done down there.

David Leonardis
Howard finster Vision House
177 Greeson St.
Summerville, Ga 30747

philip booth said...

Thanks for the great suggestion, and thanks for reading. I'll check it out.