Howard Finster Biography
The Reverend Howard Finster (December 2, 1916- October 22, 2001) was a folk artist from Summerville, Georgia who claimed to be inspired by God to spread the gospel through the environment of Paradise Garden and the over 46,000 pieces of art he created in his lifetime. Finster was born at Valley Head, Alabama and lived on the family farm as one of thirteen children. He attended school from age six and made it through the sixth grade. He said he had his first vision at three years old when he saw his recently deceased sister Abbie Rose walking down out of the sky wearing a white gown. In the dream, she told him, "Howard, you're gonna be a man of visions." He was subsequently "born again" at a Baptist revival at the age of 13 and began to preach at 16. He gave the occasional sermon at local churches and wrote articles for the town newspaper. In 1949, he became a full-time pastor at Rock Bridge Baptist Church in Norcross, Georgia.
In 1961, he moved to Pennville, Georgia and bought four acres of land upon which to build the Plant Farm Museum, which was meant "to show all the wonderful things o' God's Creation, kinda like the Garden of Eden". It featured such attractions as the Bible House, the Mirror House, the Hubcap Tower, the Bicycle Tower, the Machine Gun Nest, and the largest structure in the garden, the five-story Folk Art Chapel. He also started putting up signs with Bible verses because he felt that they stuck in people's heads better that way.
He retired from preaching in 1965 and focused all of his time on improving the Plant Farm Museum. In 1976, he had another vision to paint sacred art. "And one day I was workin' on a patch job on a bicycle, and I was rubbin' some white paint on that patch with this finger here, and I looked at the round tip o' my finger, and there was a human face on it... then a warm feelin' come over my body, and a voice spoke to me and said, 'Paint sacred art.'".
To watch an interview with the late Howard Finster, please click here.