By PAM HARBAUGH
Start your new year weekend off right with a visit to something different — the exhibition “The Visionary Works of the Reverend Howard Finster,” which runs through Jan. 10, 2016 at the Foosaner Art Museum.
The exhibition comprises paintings, prints, sculptures and a short video about Rev. Finster, also known as the grandfather of Southern Folk Art and the Andy Warhol of the South.Rev. Finster was a self-taught visionary artist. Other words to throw into the mix are “naive” and “folk” artist. Like these other artists, he used anything he could get his hands on to make art. You’ll see house paint, tractor enamel, siding…some use old tennis shoes, signs…anything that will hold paint. But why Rev. Finster falls into the “visionary” group is that he felt compelled to share his religious visions, or messages from God.
He was shown the light, so to speak, in 1976 when he was painting a refurbished bicycle. His finger made a paint smudge that looked like a human face. Rev. Finster took that moment as a call from God to share sermons through his art. If you get up close to the paintings, you can read the messages the artist felt compelled to share.
Eventually, Rev. Finster’s popularity grew, landing him an appearance on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” (you’ll see that in an exhibit video) and commissions for album covers by rock groups R.E.M. and Talking Heads.
The video seen in the Foosaner Art Museum exhibit is actually a trailer for Ava Leigh Stewart’s documentary “Paradise Garden,” which is Rev. Finster’s amazing outdoor museum. That’s located in Georgia “about 3 miles north of downtown Summerville and 2 blocks south of the WalMart in Trion GA” (source, ParadiseGardenFoundation.org).
Here’s a quote by Rev. Finster from the Paradise Garden Foundation website:“I built the park because I was commissioned by God. I started the Garden in 1970 about one hundred feet into the backyard, built a cement walk and put up a haul shed and started to display the inventions of mankind. My park is a memorial to inventors. The inventors don’t get recognition. They don’t have an Inventor’s Day. To represent them, I’m trying to collect at least one of every invention in the world.”
“The Visionary Works of the Reverend Howard Finster” runs through Jan. 10 at the Foosaner Art Museum, 1463 Highland Ave., Melbourne. While there is normally a charge to view the exhibits, this one is free to the general public. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Call 321-674-8916 or visit FoosanerArtMuseum.org. The museum is part of the Florida Institute of Technology.