Howard Finster, Outsider Art and 1980s Rock

With the Outsider Art Fair coming up this week and weekend in NYC, I’ve seen some advance press, including a story about Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and how he will have a selection of works from his collection of outsider art on view (and for sale) at the Outsider Art Fair. The Stipe collection will be handled by Phillip March Jones, who has an East Village gallery called “March,” which I wasn’t previously aware of, but now would like to visit!

The same story mentions R.E.M.’s awareness of – and friendship with – the outsider art legend and Baptist minister Howard Finster, whose work can be seen below. I saw and photographed these two pieces at the 2015 Outsider Art Fair, at the booth of “Institute 193” from Lexington, Kentucky, which I’ve just learned now is actually another gallery founded by Phillip March Jones!

Howard Finster Outsider Art at the 2015 Outsider Art Fair
Works by Howard Finster in the Institute 193 booth at the 2015 Outsider Art Fair.

I’m going off on some tangents here, so let me get back to the original topic that caught my attention – the fact that R.E.M. was hanging out with Howard Finster in the 1980s. It turns out that they weren’t the only band that was friendly with Finster; the Talking Heads and B52s were as well. R.E.M. filmed parts of their video Radio Free Europe with scenes of the band walking through Finster’s Paradise Garden, and both R.E.M. and the Talking Heads had album covers with Finster’s art. To learn more about these interesting friendships and collaborations, check out the video below:

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