Work of the Week — “Hank Williams” by Howard Finster

Monday, February 5, 2018

by Sadie Allen

I’m sitting in another local joint, listening to my father up on stage playing “Hey, Good Lookin’” or “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, songs I’ve heard him practice hundreds of times throughout my childhood. This was a scene I experienced often in my early teens, as my mother and I were present at all of his shows (his biggest fans, if you will). Back when my dad played more with his country band, I became all too familiar with the classic tunes of Hank Williams, an iconic country musician throughout the lifetime of Howard Finster. Coincidentally, my father knew the artist personally and was even married by him in his mill-hill gardens in Summerville, GA. When I told my dad I was going to be writing about a Howard Finster piece this week, he jumped up and showed me images he had taken of the artist’s “Eden” property. Not only was it teeming with flowers and natural wonder, it held that eclectic southern charm, with painted buildings and even wild and wondrous sculptures. Given my dad’s connection to the artist and the painting, I couldn’t resist choosing this piece to share.

Howard Finster (1916-2001) grew up extremely poor and was one of 13 children born in Valley Mead, AL. He didn’t realize his gift for painting, though, until age 60. He spent his younger years repairing bicycles for those in his town when he had a vision of Jesus telling him to paint. Many of his paintings include religious references, including this piece. Below Hank’s face lies the words “Take time to think on heaven, it is the best thing that could happen to you. Talk to Jesus and get ready to go to heaven. Have that Holy feeling that you escaped Hell and pain.” These religious themes were present throughout many of his unique folk pieces.
I especially enjoy the periwinkle background color of this piece, allowing the tiny faces in the mountains to peek through. Every stroke of his brush had a meaning and each image had a place. I admire this precision in thought which led to the stunning pieces he created throughout his lifetime. This “Man of Vision” continues to inspire others with his unique and eclectic pieces, even after his passing.

Artwork above: Howard Finster, Hank Williams, 1990, Acrylic and Markers, 13.75 x 8 inches. Gift of Randy Shull. Permanent Collection. 2000.19.01.20.