Sunday, April 20, 2014

Field Trip: Paradise Garden

After a few years of traveling the world visiting art environments, it was time to finally visit one of the most famous- Paradise Garden- which was very close to my own home in Atlanta. About an hour and a half northwest of the city, tucked in Summerville, GA, Paradise Garden has become a pilgrimage for folk artists, admirers, and those who love the unusual.

As Finster wrote in multiple places... 
"I took the pieces you threw away,
and put them together by night and day
Washed by rain and dried by sun,
A million pieces all in one."

What a great way to describe it! Many of the objects used in Paradise Garden were reclaimed and recycled.

Howard's old studio

When you arrive, you park in front of Howard's old studio (which is now an office space for Paradise Garden). It's a bright yellow building with a friendly staff member who is passionate about the place. As soon as we parked, she met us outside with brochures and asked all about our trip:

A lovingly hand-drawn map of Paradise Garden

When you walk into Paradise Garden, you pass by an old structure (not open to the public) that has seen better times. Many of the pieces originally done by Finster have been stolen or need restoration. That's not to say that it's not an inspiring place, but it is certainly not the same now as it once was...

the little chapel, and the larger chapel overlooking it

Past the old structure is the Folk Art Chapel and storage shed for his found objects.

The entrance to the Paradise Garden bridge (mostly for wheelchairs, perhaps?)...
The entrance to the bridge is to the left of this birdcage
the bridge from the outside, it goes in an "L" shape

The other side of the bridge:

The bridge itself has hundreds of pieces "given" to Howard (some posthumously) that people have nailed or glued to the walls...

a cool glitter boot in the window

folk artists and trained artists have "given" Finster an artwork

More "gifts"
A cardinal...

I recognized Stucky right away!

LOVED these little trinket necklaces

Past the bridge, close to Finster's studio, is his famous mosaic building:

Look at all of the trinkets!

The best kept secret of Paradise Garden, you could easily miss this alley

Little trinkets hanging from the ceiling of a shed

Trinkets everywhere!

these telephone pole insulators are everywhere! they are beautiful!
 One of the most consistent folk art traditions that I see in all of the art environments I visit is the bottle tree- this is Finster's...

beautiful bottles

One of the few current residents of Paradise Garden...

Finster passed away about 13 years ago, and there is currently an effort to conserve and repair his Paradise Garden. It is a wonderful place and a pilgrimage site for folk art lovers. Even though it's not currently at its best, I still encourage you to go visit!