Howard Finster: Man of Visions


One of Finster's most affecting works is entitled "They Used My Cross to Crucify", which depicts a male figure who closely resembles many of his self-portraits being crucified, upside- down. Among the inscriptions is the passage from Matthew: "BLESSED ARE THEY WHICH ARE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN," while a hammer sits on a mound nearby under the words "YOUR HAMMER AND NAILS ARE WAITING."

The exact context of this work is not known, but it is likely that the figure on the cross is a self-portrait and that the hammer represents the tools which Finster embedded in one of the concrete walkways of Paradise Garden when he decided to become an artist. Just how much Howard Finster has felt persecuted for his faith or devotion to painting his sacred art is unclear, but the painting suggests a deep suffering and sacrifice in his endeavor, if not a full-blown messianic complex.

What is clear, however, is that Finster paints with real passion and conviction, no matter what label you might try to place on him and his "sermons in paint."

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