Envisioning Howard Finster: The Religion and Art of a Stranger From Another World (University of California Press, 2015)
When Howard Finster died in 2001 (b. 1916), he was one of the most celebrated contemporary folk, self-taught, outsider, vernacular, or visionary artists of the 20th century. Indeed, in the dark apocalyptic times after Finster’s death a month after 9/11, Finster was considered by his many fans and artworld insiders (see the 2002 Raw Vision Outsider Sourcebook and Roberta Smith’s obituary in the New York Times, October 23, 2001) as a “classic outsider” and one of the most remarkable American artists of the 20th century. The life and work of this rural Baptist preacher and cultural hero with a sixth grade education is an incredible case study in the intrinsic and transformative relationship between religious visionary experience and artistic creativity. Finster’s life and his significance for understanding both religion and art will be examined in relation to several important questions: “What is the nature and significance of visionary experience?” “How do Finster’s Southern Appalachian roots and maverick Christianity inform his work?” “Was Finster truly a visionary genius or simply a madman?” “How can Finster’s self-described ‘bad and nasty’ art be considered “real” or “good” art?” “And with respect to Finster’s visionary religion and art, can it truly be said that he was a “Backwoods William Blake“ and a “Southern Andy Warhol”? In the words of Katherine Jentleson, the Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-taught Art at Atlanta’s High Museum, the time has come for a “reappraisal“ of Howard Finster’s legacy (Art Papers July-August 2015).
“I Can Feel Another Planet In My Soul. Strange Visions. Wondrous Art. The Remarkable World Of Howard Finster” (2015, 30 min) A film by David Fetcho, Susan English Fetcho, and Steven Pattie
“I Can Feel Another Planet In My Soul” tells the extraordinary story of a rural Baptist minister with a sixth grade education who late in life received a vision instructing him to ‘paint sacred art.’ Moving from the pulpit to a makeshift studio in Northwest Georgia, he began creating work that, within a few short years, would become a sensation in the rarified world of contemporary art, as well as in popular culture. Howard Finster is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential self-taught artists of the 20th century. One of the highlights of this film is the digitally remastered footage of Finster’s fascinating appearance on the 1983 Johnny Carson “Tonight” show.
Howard Finster: Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show (2… by mrjyn
NORMAN GIRARDOT taught at Notre Dame University and Oberlin College before going to Lehigh University where he is now the University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion. His research areas and publications involve Chinese religious tradition, particularly Daoism; the intellectual history of the study of China/Chinese religion; the history of the comparative study of religion; and the relation of religion and outsider/vernacular/visionary art. His current research, writing, and curatorial efforts largely concern outsider artistic and visionary tradition, especially as seen in the work of artists like Howard Finster, Mr. Imagination, Myrtice West, Norbert Kox, Aloise Corbaz, Charlie Lucas, Lonnie Holley, and others. Based on almost 30 years of association with the artist and his family, Girardot’s most recent book is an interpretive appreciation of the incredibly prolific Southern Baptist preacher, Christian shaman, maverick outsider, quasi-Western Daoist, and visionary artist, Howard Finster (1916-2001). This work is entitled Envisioning Howard Finster: The Religion and Art of a Stranger from Another World (University of California Press, 2015). He is currently working on a project about Gregory Warmack (1948-2012), better known as Mr. Imagination.