Wednesday, May 31, 2023

A trip to Paradise Garden in Summerville, Ga.

On Saturday, Alex and I took a two-hour drive north to visit a site we’d often heard about but never visited, Rev. Harold Finster’s Paradise Garden in Summerville, Georgia. Finster is famous in the folk art world for his primitive paintings featuring religious imagery and texts, and I’d long wanted to visit. 

This is the World's Folk Art Church there, and visitors can't go inside at the moment since the Paradise Garden Foundation is working to restore it. I'm very curious to know if it's as intriguing inside as it is outside.

The retired minister was said to be quite the eccentric, and I bought a book about his life that said even his critics agreed that he treated people well and truly seemed to love everyone he met. (Something to aspire to!)

The gardens featured lots of miscellany throughout, and I imagine you could visit this place a dozen times and see something new on each visit.

In this open-air bridge-like gallery, there was artwork by Finster as well as artwork by others. He just painted the artists' names right there on the walls, and Alex and I both hope the Foundation has documented all of this before it fades one day!

Only a handful of visitors and a small group of plein air painters were there the day we visited. You can go in all of the outbuildings at your leisure, and there was stuff everywhere!

It would seem the reverend didn't view anything as trash. In one of the buildings, I spotted some pieces that I would have liked if they hadn't been damaged.

These pieces looked fine, and I wondered what Finster, who died in 2001, had planned to do with them.

Coffee, anyone?

Throughout the gardens were several of these pieces that remind me of a chicken-wire compost bin I have in the backyard. But Finster's "compost" was not quite like mine …

Look at all these plates!

And that pink saucer was (key word being "was") so pretty!

Look at all this stuff!

This mosaic (ish?) piece reminded me of those shell-encrusted pieces you see around coastal cities like Savannah, except …


I recognized this piece (a teacup, perhaps) as Royal Winton's Old Cottage Chintz pattern. I certainly didn't expect to see that there!

Or Santa!

And this artwork? It may or may not be in the garden somewhere. I saw it in a photo collage (uncaptioned) that was displayed in the welcome center, and I asked the staffer on duty if she happened to know where it was. She did not, but she noted that even a year after working there, she still sees new things all the time. I can believe it! I bought a book about the whimsical art by the retired minister who loved Jesus, people, and junk, and I'm looking forward to learning more about this unusual man who's been referred to as "the Andy Warhol of the South." If you appreciate folk art and ever have the opportunity to visit Paradise Garden, go!



  1. What an interesting place! So much to take in.

  2. How interesting! Looks like a fun place to explore

  3. That definitely looks like an intriguing place, to put it mildly!

  4. What a fun place to visit. I would love it.


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