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Bound for paradise

Remembering Howard Finster

For Howard Finster, death wasn't a scary a prospect — he described it as "going home." In ill health since last year, Finster told his family he was "dying to live," a message his daughter Beverly believes was his way of saying goodbye.

One of the most famous visual artists the South has reared, Finster died of congestive heart failure Oct. 22. The 84-year-old patriarch of folk art was known for his fantastical paintings that mixed religious parables with pop culture icons like Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline.

In the days following Finster's death, Beverly says attendance has been up at Paradise Garden, the artist's expansive Summerville, Ga., tourist destination and shrine to folk art. On Dec. 2, Finster's birthday, his family dedicated a black marble monument, etched by Carl McKlesky, at the Garden's Chapel.

"It's been a rough time trying to go on here without him," says Beverly, who, along with her brother Roy, is carrying on the family tradition by producing works in Finster's style. "But Howard is still living here. We still feel his presence. We just don't have him physically anymore."??



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