Baltimore’s Visionary Art Museum among many elevating Finster’s profile

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Howard Finster's "Super Powers" (1984) is on view in the exhibit "The Visionary Experience: Saint Francis to Finster" at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.
Howard Finster's "Super Powers" (1984) is on view in the exhibit "The Visionary Experience: Saint Francis to Finster" at the  American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

Howard Finster’s “Super Powers” (1984) is on view in the exhibit “The Visionary Experience: Saint Francis to Finster” at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

The restoration over the last three years of the Rev. Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden folk art environment in the northwest Georgia town of Summerville also is proving to be a factor in a growing revival of interest in the work of the prolific artist more than a decade after his death.

The latest evidence is Finster’s powerful presence in a sprawling group exhibition at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore on view in the documentary “Paradise Garden,” which will be screened at the Goat Farm Art Center on Nov. 18.

Meanwhile, the Paradise Garden Foundation is readying for “A Turn in the Garden,” its annual benefit membership party on Oct. 18, when guests will enjoy a progressive dinner and live bluegrass music as they tour Finster’s Noah’s Ark-styled tribute to mankind’s creations.

  • The Georgia folk artist shares title billing in the Baltimore exhibit, “The Visionary Experience: Saint Francis to Finster,” which is appropriate given that more than 30 of the 120-plus works by 40 visionary artists are by him.

The show celebrates what the American Visionary Art Museum bills as the “Earth’s most dynamic and intuitive ‘evolutionaries’: inventors, scientists, America’s founding fathers, dreamers and saints,” each of whom has been “touched by some lightening bolt of greater understanding, insight, grace and muse.”

In addition to Finster, the exhibit probes the giant otherworldly paintings of psychic and “remote viewer” Ingo Swann, the spiritual life of guitarist Jimi Hendrix, the cosmic works of polymath Walter Russell and the religious experience of sci-fi icon Philip K. Dick as drawn by cartoonist Robert Crumb.

Through Aug. 30, 2015. www.avam.org.

  • Atlanta director Ava Leigh Stewart’s “Paradise Garden” documentary chronicles both Finster’s rise from obscurity to pop culture phenomenon — one who could charismatically overtake Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” through the force of his wide-screen personality and create album covers for R.E.M. and the Talking Heads — in addition to the efforts of the nonprofit Paradise Garden Foundation to revive the garden. In-depth interviews with Mike Mills and Chris Frantz of those bands as well as artists Finster inspired, including Steve Penley, help drive the film.

The Goat Farm is not only the site of the screening, but is helping support its marketing and distribution via one of the arts center’s Arts Investment Packages.

7 p.m. Nov. 18. Free (donations accepted). Goat Farm’s Goodson Yard, 1200 Foster St., Atlanta. To reserve: www.eventbrite com.

Carpenter Michael Sanders helped restore the "Rabbit Hutch" at famed folk artist Howard Finster's Paradise Garden in Summerville in summer 2013. A lot of work has been done in stabilizing of the elevated Rolling Chair Ramp, restoration of mosaic walkways and interior work on the World's Folk Art Chapel. PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

Carpenter Michael Sanders helped restore the “Rabbit Hutch” at famed folk artist Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden in Summerville in summer 2013.  PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

  • While enjoying “A Turn in the Garden,” guests can check out recently completed restoration projects at Paradise Garden including the Mirror House and get a last-chance look at the Visitors Center exhibit “Howard Finster: Serigraphs” (though Oct. 19).

5-9 p.m. Oct. 18. $30; $55 couples (includes membership). A chartered bus will depart the Goat Farm at 4:15 p.m.; $45 per person for ride and party. 201 N. Lewis St., Summerville. 706-808-0800, paradisegardenfoundation.org.

  • Finally, the exhibit “Howard Finster: Visions of Coca-Cola” continues its extended run at the World of Coca-Cola. Drawn from the epic Finster collection of Dahlonega jeweler Thomas E Scanlin (as are the Baltimore and Paradise Garden exhibits), the show at the downtown Atlanta attraction includes Coke bottles 8 and 13 feet tall on which the artist painted busts of presidents and other great Americans, angels and spaceships and hand-lettered messages about living a heavenly life.

Through May 2015 in the Pop Culture Gallery, World of Coca-Cola. Attraction hours vary. $16; ages 65 and up, $14; ages 3-12, $12. 121 Baker St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-676-5151, www.worldofcoca-cola.com.


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