ArtBeat: Howard Finster

Howard Finster's piece, "Hank Williams." (COURTESY / On File)
Howard Finster’s piece, “Hank Williams.” (COURTESY / On File)
Martinez Tribune

The “Howard Finster: American Folk Artist” exhibit will be held this Saturday, Feb. 20, as part of the ArtBeat Art Walk. The event will begin at 6 p.m. and is hosted by Artcelerator, a new collective of artists and art activists who are promoting art and events in Martinez, at ARTU4iA, 725 Ward St.

The Pattie Family Collection of American Folk Art exhibit at ARTU4iA will feature work by Finster, a rural Baptist minister with a sixth grade education who late in life received a vision instructing him to “paint sacred art.”

At 7:30 p.m., a short documentary about the artist titled “I Can Feel Another Planet in My Soul: Strange Visions. Wondrous Art, The Remarkable World of Howard Finster,” will be shown (produced and directed by David Fetcho and Susan English Fetcho). Collector Steven Pattie, who is also executive producer of the documentary, will be on hand to answer questions about the movie and the exhibit.

Light refreshments will be provided by the Contra Costa County Arts and Culture Commission, AC5. Live music will also be featured at the event.

For more information about the exhibit, contact John Kleber at (925) 323-6533 or

Who is Howard Finster?
Howard Finster (Dec. 2, 1916 – Oct. 22, 2001) was an American artist and Baptist minister from Georgia. He claimed to be inspired by God to spread the gospel through the design of his swampy land into Paradise Gardens, a folk art sculpture garden with over 46,000 pieces of art. His creations include outsider art, naïve art, and visionary art. Finster first came to widespread notice in the 1980s with his album cover designs for R.E.M. and Talking Heads.

Howard Finster’s piece, “Elvis at 3 is an Angel to Me.” Finster’s work will be on display at ARTU4iA, 725 Ward St., Martinez, this Saturday, Feb. 20. (COURTESY / On File)
Howard Finster’s piece, “Elvis at 3 is an Angel to Me.” Finster’s work will be on display at ARTU4iA, 725 Ward St., Martinez, this Saturday, Feb. 20. (COURTESY / On File)
Finster is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential self-taught American artists of the 20th century. Finster’s journey happened to accelerate alongside “sympathetic developments in art: graffiti art, ‘fun’ and ‘Wild Style’ painting, punk rock, the ‘new figuration’ [and] ‘Neo-Expressionism,’” as noted by art critic Tom Patterson. Potent and unrestrained, this self-described “stranger from another world,” “man of visions,” “God’s last red light on planet earth,” and “second Noah,” is the creator of a verbal, visual, sculptural, and environmental art that is an unparalleled tour de force. An extemporaneous performance with a southern drawl, he and his art-making are a relentless stream of consciousness, creating more than 47,000 works of art. His audacious art fueled by visions of Jesus, Elvis, angels, and other worlds, challenges the senses, the art world’s guardians, and the aesthetic status quo of the dominant culture. Finster is regarded by many to be the most widely exhibited artist in the world today. His is an intuitive and spontaneous art that is largely accessible and speaks from the heart.

Many local businesses have welcomed their support for this event and will be participating. States Coffee, 609 Ward St., will feature artist Tatiana Ray. Future Primitive Tattoos, 516 Main St., will feature artist Wendy Gadzuk. Citrus Salon, 631 Main St., will feature artist Julia Linsteadt. Youphoria Studio, 519 Main St., will feature artist Julia Vann. Barrelista coffee shop, 736 Main St., will be hosting spoken word poetry beginning at 6 p.m. The poets will be reciting throughout the night with acoustic music to be played between their sets. There is not an official end time. Poets are from Alhambra High School’s Backroads creative writing class.

There will also be a few street performers. Pandora Sutherland will be hooping near Barrelista and there will be acoustic music in the plaza.

Food truck, Ceviche and Co. will be parked on Ward Street.
Artcelerator will be hosting a raffle for participating artists’ works.

What is Artcelerator?
On Tuesday, Feb. 9, I was able to attend an Artcelerator meeting. The core Artcelerator group includes James Patton, Tony Rishell, Jeremy Hatch, Anthony Moore, Lorena Castillo, Jared Clay, and Kyle Logan.

This group is representing a different type of voice that has not been heard in Martinez before.

Artcelerator’s goal is to see a revolution in culture and free expression in Martinez, through a “premium art movement.” It is all about authentic art.

Artcelerator’s focus is on educating, mentoring, and revitalizing the local culture by exhibiting art along with the help of local businesses.

The group does not consist of members, but rather a core group of leaders and organizers of the movement, as well as the business partners who agreed to be hosting the ArtBeat galleries.

The group is intentionally closed to members so that the core group is able to control the “flavor” of art being admitted into the gallery events that will help lead and influence the cultivation of the culture.

“It could get out of control if you open the flood gates to anyone and everyone,” they said, which they have all learned through experience of failed models.

However, all artists are encouraged to submit their art to Artcelerator’s website,

“We care about the audience’s experience,” representatives of Artcelerator said, setting a high bar of criteria for the quality of art they choose.

The core leaders plan to curate with intentionality and include authentic, raw art as a part of their ArtBeat gallery events.

“We are wanting to introduce new art at any time. There will be six venues for each event, and hopefully we can have fresh new art at each event.”

It is important to them that the artists will get a chance to make money and gain exposure in the community from these events.

When the weather gets better, they are planning on incorporating the event with the outdoors, making it more accessible and creating a flow in between the gallery shops.

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