Here is an extract of an obituary posted today:
SUMMERVILLE, Georgia (AP) -- The Rev. Howard
Finster, a folk artist who created sermons in paint
that were featured on the covers of rock albums and
in galleries worldwide, died Monday (Oct. 22, 2001)
of congestive heart failure. He was 84.
Finster died at Redmond Regional Medical Center in
nearby Rome, Erwin-Pettit Funeral Home of
Finster, a Baptist minister since his teens, began his art
career in his late 40s, creating works that ranged from
wooden cutouts to paintings to assemblages, many of
which he adorned with messages like "Hell is a hell of a
place" in block letters.
He often used pop culture icons such as the Coca-Cola
bottle, Cadillacs and Elvis Presley in his work.
"When Christ called his disciples, he called fishermen, he
didn't call nobody from a qualified university," Finster
said in a 1990 magazine interview. "He used common
people to reveal parables. That's what I do. I use Elvis
because I'm a fan of Elvis. Elvis was a great guy. By
using him I get people's attention and they read my
Finster was considered a pioneer among self-taught
artists, advancing the "outsider" movement with his
unique personality, unflagging salesmanship and resolute
work ethic. Such artists work "outside" the aesthetic of
formal art training.
"He was an introduction to this art for a lot of
individuals who had never heard of it," said Marcia
Weber, a gallery owner in Montgomery, Alabama, who
has handled several Finster paintings. "He broke ground."
Finster's work, consistently imbued with evangelistic
themes that exhort the viewer to repent and accept Christ,
became popular in the early 1980s in New York art
"He took the word of God and did it entirely in his own
way, this eccentric, unconventional manner," said Lynne
Spriggs, folk art curator at Atlanta's High Museum of
Art, which holds the world's largest collection of Finster
works. "He was a tireless artist and a great teacher."
Album covers provided wide exposure
Finster's widest exposure may have been from music
In 1988, the Georgi a-based rock band R.E.M. asked
Finster to make the cover for its second album,
"Reckoning." The Talking Heads, a musical group of
former art students, also commissioned Finster for the
cover of its "Little Creatures" recording.
Finster was also known for his three-acre Paradise
Garden, which he described as a "folk art haven," built in
1961 on filled swampland behind his home in Pennville
in northwest Georgia.
Paradise Garden features mosaic cement paths, a giant
cement boot, the Tomb of the Unknown Body and
Finster's folk art chapel. For years, he spent Sunday
afternoons at the garden greeting visitors. He later moved
to nearby Summerville, and Paradise Garden is now
largely owned by the High Museum of Art.
'His art serves God'
Finster was born on a small farm in DeKalb County,
Alabama, on December 2, 1916, and became a Baptist
preacher at age 16.
For more than three decades, he traveled Alabama,
Georgia and Tennessee preaching at tent revivals and
supplementing his income with odd jobs, including
plumbing and bicycle repair.
In recent years, most of Finster's work was advertised on
his Web site, with the artist himself working at an almost
"We can call it commercialism, but his aim is that his art
serves a didactic function: to spread the word," said Lee
Kogan, a friend of Finster's and director of special
projects at the Museum of American Folk Art in New
York. "His art serves God. He's interested in getting this
Survivors include his wife, Pauline Freeman Finster;
four daughters; a son; 15 grandchildren and 15
Does anyone posting here fit into Howard Finster's family line, and how did he come to be born in Alabama ? Are there any other "artistic" Finster's out there, or perhaps some who have the "gift of the gab" ?