gardens of revelation, part 1 4

Howard Finster

At the end of last year, my brothers were thinking of prematurely selling Mom’s home of three decades in Santa Fe.  What could I do?  I decided to drive out to see her colonial home, perhaps for the last time, and take an inventory of her many paintings.  But what route?  With Mom, then, nearly at death’s door, I chose to visit Gardens of Revelation on the long haul west.  I was gifted a book by the same name, subtitled Environments by Visionary Artists, and liked the idea.  Mom is a visionary in her own way, now cultivating her last garden.

First up, Paradise Garden in northwest Georgia.  Howard Finster, born one of thirteen children in an Appalachian family, became a Baptist preacher and was pastor of the World’s Folk Art Church, a self-described “man of visions,” “a second Noah” who came to earth “to point the people to the world beyond.”  The “museum park,” begun in the early 60’s, was motivated this way: “…it just come to me that the world started with a beautiful garden, so why not let it end with a beautiful garden?”   [please hover over images for captions]


Started on two acres of swamp, the garden stayed strong until Howard, the outsider artist who amazingly became a lionized, insider one, died at the turn of the millennium.  The garden slept for a decade or more, returning to dust, until a local (a teenager at Howard’s death) got the site listed as a “place in peril” with Georgia preservation and then added to the National Register.  Locals, who were once skeptical of his “junk art Eden,” came to the rescue.  That same teenager now runs the attraction, saying, “Some folks still think it’s a trash dump that should be bulldozed. I’m still selling my parents on the project.”

A few of Howard’s many pithy messages:


I began painting pictures in Jan -1976- without any training…
A person don’t know what he can do unless he tryes.
Trying things is the answer to find your talent.


I took the pieces you threw away –
put them together by night & day –
washed by rain and dried by sun,
a million pieces … all in one.

References: Beardsley, John, Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists, 1995, Abbeville Press Publishers, NY;’s page “Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden.”

About ben

Ben Batchelder has traveled some of the world's most remote roads. Nothing in his background, from a degree in Visual & Environmental Studies at Harvard to an MBA from Wharton, adequately prepared him for the experiences. Yet he persists, for through such journeys life unfolds. Having published four books that map the inner and exterior geographies of meaningful travel, he is a mountain man in Minas Gerais, Brazil who comes down to the sea at Miami Beach, Florida. His second travel yarn, To Belém & Back, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. For more, visit

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4 thoughts on “gardens of revelation, part 1

  • Molly Batchelder

    Dear Ben,
    As somewhat of an outsider artist myself, I love this and have printed out soI can keep the history of the Garden of Revelation. One of your finest “finds.”

    • ben Post author

      Thanks, Crystal! Mom is miraculously improved, back East in assisted living, and the house was never put on the market due to title deed complications, so that garden is not yet gone…