Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster

Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries
February 25, 2012 - June 3, 2012

"More than anything, the exhibition encapsulates the nervous, jittery, caffeine-laced vitality of Finster as a preacher, a man of visions and a lovable crank who appeared never to sleep. . . . And yet, for all the fire and brimstone, Finster's paintings have a childlike, upbeat quality, which makes his art amusing and engaging, rather than grim or tendentious." Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer
Survey of the works and legacy of Reverend Howard Finster, self-proclaimed “Man of Visions,” in Stranger in Paradise. One of America’s most widely known and prolific self-taught artists, Finster produced over 46,000 works of art before his death in 2001.
In the mid-1960s, Finster began building a roadside park, an attraction meant to display all of "the inventions of mankind." As he was using his hands to apply paint Finster noticed that the paint smudge on his finger had created a perfect human face. A voice spoke to him, saying, “paint sacred art.” In response, Finster produced thousands of sermon-laden artworks with subjects ranging from historical characters and popular culture icons like Elvis Presley to evangelistic fantasy landscapes and futuristic cities. Most works are meticulously covered in Finster’s own hand-lettered words and biblical verse, recording visionary prophesies and providing glimpses of a celestial outer space world that Finster believed God had revealed to him.
This exhibition provides an in-depth survey of Finster's career, covering the variety of themes inherent in his work, much of it relating to his visionary experiences. Well-known and misunderstood, his position remains polarized, suspended somewhere between awe for his tireless, faith driven creativity and reluctance by the art community to accept his place in the pantheon of contemporary art.
This exhibition is curated by Glen C. Davies, organized by Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and sponsored in part by Fox Development Corporation; Thomas E. Scanlin; Office of the Chancellor, U of I; Office of the Provost and Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, U of I; Illinois Arts Council; Krannert Art Museum Director’s Circle Fund; and Krannert Art Museum Council.