EILEEN WEST GALLERY
CONTEMPORARY AND OUTSIDER ART
REVEREND HOWARD FINSTER (1916 - 2001)
One of 13 children, Finster was born in Valley Head Alabama. His work is referenced in all serious studies of American Art today. The High Museum in Atlanta GA has fine collection and the 4th floor of the new building is devoted to him and his contemporaries in the genre.
"Finster first started receiving outside publicity in 1975. That year, Atlanta, GA television station Channel 5 ran a story and he also appeared in an Esquire magazine article that first dubbed his museum Paradise Garden. He made his first exhibition appearance in 1976 and painted four paintings for the Library of Congress in 1977. He was also selected to be part of the Venice Biennale in 1984.
Finster's images range from pop culture icons like Elvis Presley to historical figures like George Washington to religious images like The Devils Vice and "John the Baptist" to his own visions. His paintings are colorful and detailed; they use flat picture plane without perspective and are often covered with words, especially Bible verses. Every painting also has a number; God had asked him to do 5,000 paintings to spread the gospel and he wanted to keep track.
Finster gained national fame after his collaborative work with Athens, Georgia-based rock band R.E.M.. The group filmed the video for their debut single Radio Free Europe in Finster's Paradise Gardens in 1983. The following year, the band's singer Michael Stipe and Finster collaborated on a painting for the cover of their second album Reckoning. After that the band made the song Maps and Legends (in its third album "Fables of the Reconstruction") as an homage to Finster. Along with R.E.M., Finster also appeared in the documentary film Athens, GA: Inside Out, filmed in 1985, in which he tells the story of how he came to be an artist.
The Talking Heads commissioned a Finster painting for Little Creatures in 1985 that was subsequently selected as album cover of the year by Rolling Stone magazine. Other artists to use Finster as an album cover designer include Memory Dean, Pierce Pettis, and Adam Again.
Parts of Finster's Paradise Garden were installed, in 1994, as part of the permanent collection of Atlanta's High Museum. Bill Mallonee, himself a Christian, of the Vigilantes of Love (also from Athens, Georgia) wrote a song inspired by Finster's artwork called The Glory and the Dream in 1994.
Howard Finster was responsible for introducing millions to outsider art, but even with his fame, he remained focused on spreading the word of God. He said of the Talking Heads album, "I think there's twenty-six religious verses on that first cover I done for them. They sold a million records in the first two and a half months after it come out, so that's twenty-six million verses I got out into the world in two and a half months!"
Finster died Sept 22, 2001. He said he was inspired by God to spread the gospel through the environment of Paradise Garden and created over 46,000 pieces of art. A new foundation has been formed to restore Paradise Garden."
A great source for information about this kind of art is Raw Vision Magazine
Published in the UK, early additions of this award winning magazine are now collectable. Reprints are available.
The gallery has only one Howard Finster cutout for sale at this time. The Reverend Finster lived his spiritual life in his paintings. In this piece he represents himself in a shoe preaching that "if a shoe fits, wear it." and using the parts of the shoe as a take-off point for his signature stream of consciousness writing.
The "Heel of good. balance. Walk straight to Gods.gate"
"Briddle your tongue...", he admonishes mankind.
"Howard in a Shoe" Cutout wood panel 17.5" x 10.5" 6/21/1996 #39,000,272 SOLD
The backs of Rev Finster's works are nearly always as interesting as the front. He dated and numbered each piece then used the space to reveal his visions of the second coming.
NB: If you interested in particular artwork held by other collectors, email the gallery and we'll try to find what you are looking for.
MOSE TOLLIVER "MOSE T" (1925- 2006)
MoseT and Eileen West on his front porch in Montgomery AL 1994.
Click the image for more information.
Folk Art is a living art form. There are many great folk artists working today.
MISSIONARY MARY PROCTOR is a great example.
The gallery has been representing Mary Proctor for many years.
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James Arthur "Buddy" Snipes
Mr. Snipes developed his personal iconography out of the natural world around him. The impulse to create, to make things he "liked", drives him to make art that is informed by his life out in the woods of Alabama.
Click the image for more work by Buddy Snipes.
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