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Howard Finster: art + religion

By Josemaría Moreno González

Art and religion: a concept and history, which together run deep in Latin America. Even prior to the arrival of the Spaniards and the Church, the indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica – Mayan, Aztec, Olmec, etc. – all incorporated religion and ceremony into their artistic expressions whether that was carved stone fertility figures, wall reliefs, or decorative elements to adorn the ruling elite and the high priests.

Howard Finster
Until Sun, Jun 30
Galería Skot Foreman
Fábrica La Arurora

Galería Skot Foreman hosts a fascinating survey at a contemporary interpretation of art and religion created by whom some believe to be the most famous folk artist in history -Reverend Howard Finster.

Howard Finster (1917-2001) was a sincere, no-nonsense, and candid preacher in the deep South of North America when he heard the call from God commanding him to create sacred art in order to spread the Word and the message of salvation. A man of visions and a man of God, Finster tirelessly worked to honor his covenant with God, producing more than 46,000 works of art in over 30 odd – in the literal sense – years. Finster was obsessed with keeping accurate record of his output; he would number and time stamps each individual piece and simultaneously keeps a running log (an original page of which is on exhibit). A steadfast follower of pop culture and news, the artist would even lace his works with current events going on in the world on the backside of paintings. His outstanding artistic production helped Finster finance his spiritual crusade and allowed him to keep up with what is now perhaps the most iconic of his works: “Paradise Garden”, a five acre theme park dedicated to God. Now a world heritage site in north of Atlanta, Georgia. The creation of his version of paradise on earth transformed his status as a folkloric cult artist into a prominent public figure, appearing on the Johnnie Carson Show, the Venice Biennale, Newsweek and Esquire magazines along with one man shows from New York to Los Angeles. However and despite his well earned fame, Finster never lost track of his purpose as “a man from another world” here only momentarily to lead believers and unbelievers alike to salvation. The personal accounts from both friends and strangers that one may find in publications all across the board attest to Finster’s honesty and relentless commitment to God, indeed, that is the key message behind gallery owner Skot Foreman’s personal relation and friendship with the late Reverend. This inescapable quality of Finster, his integrity as an artist and as a human being, is perhaps the reason behind the extraordinary pull and influence that he had in youth culture back in the 1980s and 1990s even leading up to bands such as Talking Heads and R.E.M commissioning him with the creation of the cover art for several of their albums and singles, most notably “Little Creatures” and “Reckoning”, respectively.

Although Finster passed away at the age of 84 in 2001, his legacy lives on in many private collections around the world and permanent museum collections such as The Smithsonian in Washington D.C., The Whitney Museum of Art in New York City, High Museum Atlanta, Philadelphia Museum of Art to name but a few.

The one-man exhibition in San Miguel entitled “Wild Kingdom” is the first time Reverend Finster’s work has been exhibited in depth in Latin America. Over 50 original works ranging from some of his earliest pieces in the 1970s all the way through until the mid 1990s when gallerist Skot Foreman published alongside Finster various limited edition prints and posters. Works in the exhibition range in price from US$500 up to US$5,000-from 6,000 up to 60,000 Pesos ; and also range in mediums including limited edition prints, paintings, and three dimensional sculptures. I highly recommend, even if you haven’t heard of this truly one of a kind artist, that you make it to the gallery in the Fábrica la Aurora before the show comes down on the 30th of June!


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