Saturday 7 April 2012

Paradise Gardens listed on National Register of Historic Places

Rev. Howard Finster (1915-2001)
The late Rev. Howard Finster was one of the best known American folk artists of the last half-century, and his art appeared on the covers of albums / CDs by REM, Talking Heads U2, Blackhawk and The News Boys, and his Paradise Gardens were also used as a location for music videos.

The Chapel
According to the Los Angeles Times, Finster 'always considered his masterwork to be the Paradise Garden behind his house in out-of-the-way Chattooga County, Georgia.'  Here on a 4-acre site the Reverend created a garden of 'murals, plants, sculptures, biblical visions and curious homemade buildings (which were) were the artist's attempt to echo God's work described in the Book of Genesis.'

Since Finster's death in 2001 the garden has fallen into disrepair.  Thankfully, in February this year, A  non-profit organisation, the Paradise Garden Foundation, purchased the site for $125,000 with the aim of fully restoring it.  A big step has been taken, for as reported by the  Rome News Tribune, the Paradise Gardens has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Mosaic Garden
According to the Foundation's website, the garden is 'quite simply, a work of art… a masterpiece in it’s own right. Included on the property are the Gardens, , Paradise Gardens Art Gallery, and of course, the World’s Folk Art Chapel.  Howard started the Gardens in 1961 before he received his vision telling him to create sacred art in 1976. Years of compiled art make up the maze of structures and sculptures. Everything in the Gardens has a meaning. Incorporating all kinds of recycled materials into his art, Howard used bottles, glass, mirrors, cement, bathtubs, toilets, “garbage” such as rusted bicycle frames and cast off jewelry… you name it, it’s there. Howard had an amazing way of combining text and strong visual forms, so that you have no doubt about his evangelical purpose. His calling as a preacher comes to life here at Paradise Gardens, and by using his art, he created sermon after sermon. Of visual art, he said, “Visual art is a great thing. It draws the attention of people. That’s what peoples’ work does. It preaches for them after they’re gone.” Yes… it certainly does.'

A grand opening is scheduled for May 5 when the garden once again opens to the public.

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