Howard Finster

Zoellner Arts Center, Lehigh University Art Galleries

Marking the third anniversary of the death of the self-taught visionary artist Howard Finster (1916–2001), this ambitious tripartite retrospective grappled with the pressing problem of measuring aesthetic quality within the increasingly unmanageable field of outsider art, which has in recent years become synonymous with bloated expos that market “otherness” at the expense of curatorial responsibility.

More than any other so-called outsider artist, Finster—a Southern Baptist evangelical preacher and jack-of-all-trades who received a divine calling to become an artist at the age of sixty—has forced the issue of quality by forging an oeuvre and style that were compromised by commercial success. In producing almost fifty thousand works of art and constructing Paradise Garden, a three-acre environment on his property in Summerville, Georgia, Finster himself was far less concerned with the issue

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