studio visits/interviews

Close encounter with Howard Finster


September 7, 2006   ·   4 Comments


Los Angeles artist Scott Waterman is one of my flickr buddies. His paintings are swirling, rhythmical portrayals of hard-edged city infrastructure (wires, poles, lights)overlaid with decorative patterning that’s delicate, ebullient and organic. Scott is a lively, knowledgeable and opinionated commentator on flickr. One recent comment about Howard Finster I just have to share. It followed my posting on Adam Wallacavage’s book Monster size Monsters which included a nice photo of Howard Finster taken by Wallacavage in 1994. Scott commented he’d been there–at Howard Finster’s place — in 1978, and that Finster didn’t take credit cards. I asked him to tell me about it.

Did you talk long with him (Finster) in 1978?

Scott: He was a preacher so he did the talking. This was before a lot of his notoriety and the curiosity seekers. I was living in Atlanta at the time and had a friend from Cave Spring (which is close to Summerville) and somehow she discovered him. Anyway we’d gone up sometime in the afternoon and stayed until late in the evening. He had a bed in his studio that we all sat on, listening and sometimes trying to stay awake. We’d start to make excuses to leave and he’d start up another train of thought.

Howard Finster
Elvis Presley by Howard Finster

His stories were fantastical. Henry Ford, the baby Jesus, and flying saucers would all be in the same sentence. He had solutions for all the big problems that beset mankind. He was a very sweet man. I gave him some of my work –snakes painted on cutout plywood and he gave us a bunch of his paintings on paper. They were sort of (ab-ex) experiments on old printed matter. (He ran a small press at one time.)

Scott Waterman
Here’s a painting by Waterman, 143. For me it conjures up a scene on the Santa Monica pier….fireworks, hot dogs, ferris wheel and the spray of the ocean.

Actually I remembering a lot more but I’ll just mention one more tidbit. My Georgia friend and I happened to be in New York when Howard had his first show at Phyllis Kind Gallery in SoHo. We attended the opening which was packed. His work looked great hung in the center of the art world. Howard gave another of his long rambling talks until Phyllis gave him the hook.

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4 responses to “Close encounter with Howard Finster”

  1. Mark says:

    I remember shortly before he died there was an outsider/craft show at his house. He sat on the front porch all day and a steady stream of visiters lined up to shake his hand and get a blessing. A big black snake made it’s way up the side walk past the line of people. Someone picked it up and put it in the street. It returned several times, each time someone put it back in the street. The snake continued make it’s way to the reverend, some kind of sign? We left.

  2. Scott Waterman says:

    Roberta, my Georgia friend who introduced me (and many others) to Howard Finster is Sue Garner who is also an artist and accomplished musician. Sue composed music for some of Emily Hubley’s animated work and performed live at MOMA. Scott

  3. abiALI says:

    I should have figured that Scott had met the late great artsist and visionary Howard Finster. Mt grandma, Irma Freeman traded one of her paintings to a Pittsburgh Art daeler for an angel painted on wood by Howard Finster when he was alive. Then my crazy aunt stole it! I wrote Howard once and he sent me a really cool space picture .

    I think Scott’s work is quite beautiful.

  4. roberta says:

    Great snake story, Mark…and funny story about the traded and stolen Finster, abiali. Scott, I listened to a little of Sue and Angel’s music on her site–very homespun, mournful and Southern. Goes with Finster real well. Thanks for sharing!

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