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Howard Finster, Stranger from Another World

December 17, 2004


Art should be for people, and about life---in my view. It's not something snotty and set above us somehow. Howard Finster was a wonderful, lively artist, but his autobiography seems to me to be at least as good as his art. His art is world famous, but I bet hardly anyone knows his story. If you like the one, you really should check out the other. It informs his work like no academic explaining can.


He grew up in the South, in a big family, one that saw its share of terrible po'folk tragedy. Howard was a preacher by trade, before being an artist, and he knew that he could be powerfully charismatic, but he wanted make the biggest impact possible, so he went to painting. The stories of his relations with his fellow church board members, and of his trip to Washington, DC, with an American Indian chief are candid and amazing.

I like multimedia and to read about the things that I might see. Having a soundtrack is nice, too. For Howard, the old hymns and bluegrass music would probably do. But the reading has to be straightforward. Artspeak is among the worst ways to try to learn about art. Here's writing about art that anyone can be inspired by.

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