Howard Finster
Matthew Arient's Angel (6927), 1987
Tractor enamel on wood
24 x 28 inches
Collection of Matthew J. Arient
Photo: James Prinz
© Pauline Finster


Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster

Exhibition Fact Sheet

Checklist (click for images)

An evangelistic preacher in paint and self-proclaimed Man of Visions, Reverend Howard Finster became one of the most widely known and prolific self-taught artists, producing over 46,000 pieces of art by his death in 2001. Finster often referred to himself as "a stranger from another world" and "God's last red light on the planet earth." He saw himself as a sacred artist, fulfilling his visionary prophesies revealed to him by God through a heavenly, outer space world. Thus Finster believed he was to disperse warnings to people to save their souls from the horrors of hell. These experiences were very real to Finster and provided a seemingly limitless variety of images for his art, and content for his rapid fire, stream of consciousness monologues.

In the mid-1960s, Finster began building a roadside park, first known as the Plant Farm Museum, an attraction meant to display all of "the inventions of mankind." This soon transformed into an outdoor museum of collaged concrete sculpture, collections of unusual junk and recycled machine parts, hanging sun catchers, and buildings covered in paintings and signs. Later, in an 1975 article in Esquire magazine, it was dubbed "Paradise Garden," and the name stuck.

Finster said he was "God's junk man." Endlessly inventive, he took all manner of salvaged junk and discarded items, and using his ingenuity and tireless energy, created expressions of his personal visions. In his poem for the garden, he stated, "I took the pieces that you threw away and put them together by night and day, washed by the rain, dried by the sun, a million pieces all in one."

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, including: Visions of Other Worlds, Sermons in Paint, Historical and Cultural Heroes and The Plant Farm Museum [Paradise Garden].

Exhibition sponsored 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, a State Agency; Krannert Art Museum Director's Circle; and Krannert Art Museum Council


Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Glen C. Davies


Approximately 175 objects

Space requirements:

Approximately 5,000 square feet


A fully illustrated catalog will include essays by the exhibition curator, Jim Arient (representative of the Arient family, who are principle lenders to the exhibition), Phyllis Kind (President of the Phyllis Kind Gallery), and Norman J. Girardot (Professor of Religious Studies, Lehigh University) and a checklist of works in the exhibition.

Accompanying materials:

Wall text and extended labels will be provided electronically. 10 copies of the catalog are included with the exhibition fee, and the venue will purchase 100 catalogs at 40% off the list price.


Loan fee of $15,000 for a 10-week booking, plus pro-rated shipping


Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion
January 29 through March 28, 2010

Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
July 24 through September 26, 2010

Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art,
Auburn University, Auburn, AL
December 11, 2010 to March 12, 2011

Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, FL
April 22 through August 28, 2011

Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, TN
November 10, 2011 through January 15, 2012

Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH
February 18 through June 3, 2012

Telfair Museum of Art's Jepson Center for the Arts, Savannah, GA
June 29 through August 19, 2012

Available for travel thereafter


Kathleen Harleman, Director

Click Checklist for images online.