A Folk Art Paradise in Georgia: Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens

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Over on Burnaway Magazine, there’s a new article up that I wrote about visiting folk artist Howard Finster’s former home and garden in Summerville, Georgia. The artist created an area full of folk art, religious text, and junk intermingled at every turn, and visiting is a fun daytrip from Atlanta or elsewhere in North Georgia. Seeing the artist’s work here, as opposed to a museum, clarifies where the artist was coming from in both a literal and figurative sense, and strengthened my appreciation of his work. I’ve included more pictures here, and just follow the link to read the article “Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden Continues to Thrive” on Burnaway.

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I visited Paradise Gardens in June. Now that I’ve gotten back from a long vacation (without a computer–possibly not the best decision I’ve ever made), I hope to catch up and posts of some of the things I’ve seen soon.

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Imre Bukta: Another Hungary at the Mucsarnok

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The House, 2012

Imre Bukta: Another Hungary, a large show at Budapest’s Mucsarnok (or Kunsthalle), takes you through the Hungarian painter’s well-known  older works as well as new paintings, installations, and videos. Themes of rural life, of a Hungary outside of Budapest, run through his work with an emphasis of agrarian life, for example through the incorporation of common farm materials, and local community, thus the title. This exhibition shows the skill and distinct vision of an intelligent artist that it would be incorrect to dismiss as ‘merely’ a folk artist. As an exhibition, it would have been stronger for a better editing of the works. It felt as if everything the artist had ever made was thrown up on the walls, but that’s another story.

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Grandmother, grandson (Photo via Pontoldal’s photostream. More here.)

The presentation of these themes is highly sophisticated, whether it be in the integration of video into an installation or in his complex, worked-over board compositions, whose sophistication belie the rustic materials (straw, nails, corn) and aesthetic. Perhaps most of all, I liked how Bukta combines both a real feeling for the people and world he presents with intellectual distance. This can be seen in the irony of the word “Nostalgy” carved into the knife balanced on the plain country table with its video image of meat beneath.

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While it uses symbols of rural Hungary, this is no glorified folk art, but something very contemporary and intelligent. In both the older, iconic work of the artist above and the recent work below , there is (ahem) a certain edge to his work, but any coldness of dry irony is softened by an honest, sympathetic portrayal of a place that resists stereotypes.

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Hungarian Landscape, 2010

Mark Alsweiler: Folk art gone contemporary

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I’m trying to remember just how I came across these fantastic paintings by New Zealand artist Mark Alsweiler, but as I can’t, let me just say I feel lucky I did. They remind me of much of art I saw in Mexico, and like most folk art often suggest a narrative, but the palette strikes me as particularly contemporary.

Different Times

I’m also impressed by the sophisticated way he uses folk elements without “talking down to them,” so to speak. Symmetry and balance play a role in that I suspect–as does a judicious use of blank space.

The Bigsky Web

The use of white in the paintings above and below feels so refreshing.

Sitting Down by the Fire

Horseman

This piece, with its skeleton on horseback riding next to the living man, reminds me of Mexican art most clearly.More than anything, I end up feeling fascinated and lingering over details in these pieces, wondering what the story behind them is.