In the 20th century, many Georgians have made contributions in music, literature, motion pictures, and art. This segment shows images of people in each category before focusing on Howard Finster, a visionary painter in Summerville. Finster describes a vision he had at age 61 instructing him to paint sacred art. He had been a preacher since age 16, and painting became a new way to spread his ideas. His paintings were full of mystical worlds and visions of heaven and angels. All of his paintings had messages written by Finster, many with misspelled words since he had only finished the sixth grade in school. He was a very prolific artist; he estimated he created 36,000 pieces of art. He also created Paradise Garden and restored an old chapel in his backyard. Finster frequently used objects he collected in his art. The music groups REM and Talking Heads asked him to create album covers for them. Finster also appeared in a video made by the group Black Hawk who wrote a song about him. His art is in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and the High Museum in Atlanta. Joanne Cubbs, folk art curator for the High, says that while his art appears simple, there are many messages and ideas that are intriguing. His work is that of an expert artist. Many people wanted to buy his art, and Finster obliged entertaining visitors to Paradise Garden, autographing pictures and talking to them. Howard Finster viewed himself as a man of the people.
Teacher tip: Display some images of Howard Finster’s art in the classroom. Ask students to read what is written on the displayed images and explain the message Finster was trying to convey through his art.