Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 34

COURTESY PARADISE GARDEN FOUNDATION

COURTESY PARADISE GARDEN FOUNDATION

Right: Howard Finster poses beside his
mosaic wall at Paradise Garden in the
1980s. Top: Visitors still marvel at it today.

to earn an art degree in 1997 from
Georgia State University in Atlanta.
"I started painting landscapes inspired by the garden, and I'm still
doing it."
Davis' canvases sold out at
Finster Fest a couple of years ago.
Russell Cook of Ranger came to the garden as a boy
at the suggestion of his junior high school art teacher.
"Rev. Finster looked at my work and said it looked a
lot like his. I was using bright, flat colors in the folk-art
style," says Cook, now an assistant professor of art at the
Cartersville and Marietta campuses of Georgia Highlands
College. "Talking to him was eye-opening about the possibilities of art, and the garden was magical with so many
layers of content and visual stimulation."
Cook will be showing his mixed-media art using
found objects at Finster Fest again this year.

ing in all the world's vibes and making his own weird
connections. His thinking was so far out there."
One of those connections was with Loose's dog,
Bongo.
"They had a special relationship," Loose says. "At the
end of [Finster's] life, his daughter would call me and say:
'Daddy's not doing good. He isn't making art. Could Bongo come down?' It was a three-hour drive from Athens,
but we went, and Howard would get up. It made me feel
good."
Loose believes that having Finster's work hanging on
his walls elevates his home. As an artist, he
was especially influenced by how hard Finster
worked.
"If you look at his output, the garden and
all the works, it's a miracle that one man could
do that. He was a maker," he says. "He also
never let other people's opinions take over his
visions. He just kept doing it. He felt he was
a conduit, giving people the messages they
needed. His art was transformative."
Loose loves the atmosphere of Finster Fest.
"I feel honored to show there. It's so important for younger artists to be together, to
share their work and make connections," he
says. "People who think folk art is over just
aren't talking to the artists practicing today."
"Absolutely," agrees Tina Cox, clay artist, folk-art collector and new executive director of the
Paradise Garden Foundation. "The folk-art movement is
vibrant, alive and well. Southern folk art is fun and whimsical. If you surround yourself with it, it's hard to have a
bad day."
Cox learned about folk art when she was a member
of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in the 1990s and
(Continued on page 37)

Peter Loose of Hull is another returning artist.
"I was already making art and had gotten some recognition when I was going past Summerville and decided
to stop. Howard was still actively working in the garden
then. I ended up spending two days with him, making
art," says the nationally known artist, whose work is inspired by nature. "It was an instant friendship. That's the
way he was; if you were with him, you were a friend.
"I had taken him this little painting of a fish. He was
busy working, but he looked at it, stuck it up in the rafters
of his studio and said, 'You're going to make a million
dollars someday.' I took that as a big thumbs-up."
Finster's favorite saying was "God is love," Loose says.
"I think that sums Howard up. He was a tuning fork, tak34

ART BY DONNIE DAVIS

'If you were with him, you were a friend'

Artist Donnie Davis was so inspired by a fourth-grade field trip to
Paradise Garden that he later earned an art degree and began
painting landscapes based on the site, such as this one. His canvases sold out at Finster Fest a couple of years ago.

More online at www.georgiamagazine.org

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - April 2018

Contents
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 3
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 5
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 6
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 7
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 8
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