Carl Holman, Assistant Director (904) 620-1921
Carl Holman, Assistant Director
The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, a cultural resource of the University of North Florida, will present “Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster.” A self-proclaimed “Man of Visions,” Finster was one of America’s most widely known and prolific self-taught artists, producing over 46,000 pieces of art before his death in 2001. The exhibition runs Friday, April 22 through Sunday,, August 28.
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]. “Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster” is curated by Glen C. Davies and is organized by Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Born in rural Alabama in 1916, Finster went on to become a preacher, tent revivalist, and “master of 22 different trades” before building his roadside tribute to inventors, the Plant Farm Museum. Later dubbed “Paradise Garden” by Esquire magazine, this rock- and junk-encrusted wonderland was the focus of Finster’s life work. In 1976, however, this focus shifted slightly. As he was using his hands to apply paint to a refurbished bicycle, Finster noticed that the paint smudge on his finger had created a perfect human face. A voice spoke to him, saying, “paint sacred art.”
“Like many of the grand masters of the Renaissance, the Rev. Howard Finster communicated his passionate and deeply spiritual message through familiar iconography,” said Marcelle Polednik, director of MOCA. “So, instead of using traditional representations of Christ, angels or demons, he often referenced popular culture, such as Elvis Daniel Boone and UFOs, to capture his audience into reading his prophetic visions.”
In response, Finster churned out thousands of sermon-laden artworks with subjects ranging from historical characters and popular culture icons like Elvis Presley to evangelistic fantasy landscapes and futuristic cities. Most works are meticulously covered in his own hand-lettered words and Biblical verse, recording visionary prophesies and providing glimpses of a celestial outer space world that Finster believed God had revealed to him.
Finster’s preaching experience and showman-like personality helped shape his public persona and ever-increasing celebrity. To spread his vision beyond Paradise Garden, Finster designed record album covers for rock groups such as R.E.M. and Talking Heads. Interviews, films, and his famous appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson further advanced his evangelical message.
MOCA Jacksonville is located at 333 N. Laura St., in downtown Jacksonville, next to the main library. For more information, visit www.mocajacksonville.org or call (904) 366-6911.
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