22 May 2015

Wherever you are, be all there. - Jim Elliot

19 May 2015

'Nuff said.  Join me here in blog-o-land to share your own blog or business!  Go here to find out more...

18 May 2015

My Life In Pictures...

Oh.  My.  Gawd.  I just uploaded all my phone stuff to my computer and I HAVE SO MANY PICTURES.  Of so many things.  From so long ago.  I'm talking months and months of pictures of feet and kitties and food and roadside attractions.  I'm amazed how many never made it to Instagram...but then again I'm still on the fence about keeping my account open.  With the blog I don't count followers or anything like that because it feels so personal and community oriented in a way.  With Instagram I turn it into a weird popularity thing and get all offended when someone stops following me.  It's so fucking ridiculous, this focus, but it's a part of my personality I a) can't deny and b) don't like.  Does anyone else do this or am I the only sad sack who cries out 'whyyyyy?' when I see a number drop?  *sigh*

Let me share a few things that are going on with these pictures...

  • Did you know I have finger toes?  They are so long and I can pick up things like pennies, pens and just about anything with them.
  • My Dad had permed hair for years and years.  That's what you get when your ex-wife is a hairdresser, eh?
  • Speaking of my Mom, it was Mother's Day not long ago and I sent her a great card that got destroyed in the mail.  Ugh.  It's a tradition that I make a card for her every year and I think this submission was a contender.  Maybe I'll redo it and surprise her with an updated version soon...
  • Brady shot a real gun for the first time in his life.  We are not gun advocates per se (although we do keep a BB gun on hand to plink at cans in the backyard sometimes) but he wanted to know what it was like to shoot a shotgun and handgun.  We have a good friend who owns several firearms and he showed Brady how to load and fire and, most importantly, how to handle a gun in the safest ways possible.  Needless to say, we don't plan on doing that again any time soon.  I don't enjoy it despite being a crack shot in my younger days.  But I like knowing how things work and how to use them...
  • We did some exploring of, you know, Europe.  And around Athens.  We love the exploring...big time!
  • New car/truck is parked in our (woefully overgrown but I like it like that) yard!  Right before we left for Europe I was in a pretty bad car accident that totaled the cool Kia.  RIP orange Kia.  We loved you and all the places you took us over the years.  And thanks for your super cool airbags that kept me from being horribly injured.  Yay!  Lucky for us, Brady's parents just bought a new car and they gave us their older beach truck.  I've never owned a pickup truck before but I've already fallen in love with this one.  We've hauled so many plants and kayaks and stuff, and used its 4 wheel drive like crazy exploring in the mountains.  Have I mentioned we love exploring?
  • Lastly, we are missing our sweet old Toby man something fierce.  He passed away shortly after we returned home from our trip and his big ol' personality left a substantial void in our household.  There's a peach tree planted where his grave is and I hope it grows big and strong in his memory.  We've lost so many animals in the last few years due to old age but I want to reiterate, always, that the pain of them leaving is eclipsed by the happy memories I have of them.  I'd adopt senior again in a heartbeat but we've decided to wait a while to see what the future holds for us. 
Today isn't a photogenic one.  It's a trip to the theater to see Mad Max and then off to work til late but, hey, it's still going to be an awesome day, right?  Yep!  And I hope you have one too...

15 May 2015

Yesterday we took a short day trip over to Anderson, SC and we took as many little known backroads as possible to get there.  The journey is the destination with day trips, am I right?

Our tentative plan was to go grab a bit at Grits And Groceries, the restaurant of a New Orleans native who transplanted to a tiny town in the middle of farm country.  Then we were going to go hiking and exploring at Gorges State Park with a loop back around to northern Georgia and a stop at a little pizza place we love on Lake Rabun.  Sounds like a great day!

Pfffft.  Not one one of those things happened because our day instead consisted of finding abandoned bridges, almost stopping at the skeeziest bar in the world, eating local goat milk ice cream while admiring the up-and-coming downtown of Anderson and then doing some stellar thrifting.  Then we came home and grilled the best corn, veggie dogs and brussel sprouts in the entire world.  Hey, sometimes you have to go with the flow...

That's what I love about these trips...the ability to change at the drop of a hat and still be incredibly fun.  I always learn something new about where I live and that keeps me loving the area in spite of long work weeks, crowded parking during football season and neighbors that love to beer pong at 11am.  Heh!  On this trip we not only found all the things I already mentioned above but also a homemade star-gazing observatory made by a local who will allow you to come out to his home and take a tour.  How cool is that?  I can't wait to go out there again and see what it can do...

I guess the point of this post is to show that little adventures really do await you everywhere.  No matter where you live.  No matter what your budget.  We'd love to explore the world outside of the US more but another European adventure is far off for us both logistically and financially.  So, we look near us to find something unique, and almost always affordable, to do on our days off.  There's never a shortage of quirky here in the south that's for sure!

If you have a suggestion of somewhere to visit in GA, SC, NC or northeast AL then please let me know.  I'm all ears!

11 May 2015

A very popular blogger recently posted about her day hiking in a National Park...which included her picking flora and fauna from the park to take home with her.  I would like to take a moment to gently remind everyone that these types of action have serious consequences within the park's ecosystem.  It's only one flower! you might say.  True.  But please take a moment to read this...

For many of us a field of wildflowers is one of the most beautiful experiences we can encounter in Nature. There is a deep impulse we carry from childhood into adulthood to reach out and pick a flower in a beautiful butterfly-filled meadow or along a public wooded trail lined with spring beauties, irises, or wake-robins. It is because we all carry such memories that we have devoted an entire website to Celebrating Wildflowers. Millions of people visit the public lands each year and if only a small fraction of them each picked a few flowers, soon there would be none for the rest of us to enjoy.

Almost all wildflowers are fragile and many wilt and perish soon after being picked. Over the years, the repercussions of wildflower picking by unthinking people go far beyond the loss of the flowers themselves. A critical chain of events is triggered for years to come once wildflowers are lost. We don’t often realize it, but wildflowers support entire ecosystems for pollinators, birds, and small animals on a micro scale. Butterflies and other insects, small birds, and animals depend on seeds, nectar, and pollen for their food supply and life support system. In addition, some pollinators are not very mobile or have very small home ranges or depend on just one species of plant and die once their habitat has been destroyed.  - USDA Forest Service

Thanks for listening.

08 May 2015

Snippets From Europe...

Brady and I traveled to 11 countries in just over 7 weeks...with only a small digital camera (a gift from my in-laws for my birthday!) and a 3 pound backpack each.  I had only one pair of shoes til I found some purple polka dot high top sneakers in Slovenia.  I had one coat that I ditched in Budapest by giving it to our Airbnb host in order to purchase a thrifted cashmere number that I got for $3 US.  I actually gave away more clothes than I brought back!  And I only left with about 9 items not including undies and such.  What a different way for us to have traveled in comparison to past trips...and I'd do it again right now.  Now.  Nowowowow.

So, here are a few shots from the few pictures we took on the trip.  Included: Iceland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary and Holland.  Can you tell where we are in each picture?

I swear I'll share some of the stories soon but for now I'm off to help Athens celebrate UGA graduations...

Have a lovely weekend!

30 April 2015

Tallulah Gorge, GA...

What does one do when you wake up early and stare at the sunrise with a cup of tea warming your hands and the day is just full of a promise of the fleeting Georgia spring?  One gets in the truck (yes, we have a truck now...long story), opens the sunroof and drives to the place they've never fully explored - Tullulah Gorge.

The rim of the canyon didn't get above high 60's in temperature *happy dance* but the gorge floor was much warmer due to the rocks soaking up the sun.  And when you spend 45 minutes climbing over boulders that are slick as glass you work up a sweat.  Luckily there are some freezing cold, and I do mean COLD, swimming holes that you can brave.  In your underwear.  Because you're classy like that.  And alone.

I'm honestly astounded that we hiked the gorge floor (and skimpy dipped, as I've started calling our stripped-down-but-still-somewhat-clothed shenanigans) because you have to have a permit to do so and they are usually gone within a few minutes after the park opens.  Seems that today no one but us chickens were willing to brave the trails or take a dip.

And I must admit that I'm so, so, so sore right now thanks to this 6 hour adventure.  Brady and I have a tendency to take a chance on hiking particular trails that inevitably lead us to cool places BUT they come with unexpected hours added to the trip or a weird rainstorm or a shit ton of climbing to do or something like that.  We actually laugh about it but it still catches us off guard every single time.  We never learn and today was no exception.

If you're thinking of visiting Sliding Rock and Bridal Veil Falls at the Gorge then be prepared!  It's a strenuous hike to-and-from the area and it's very slippery on the rocks.  Do not bring anything you don't want to get splashed (my camera barely made it out and only did because I crawled on my knees with it held above my head to cross the streams) and be sure to bring lots of water.  I also do not recommend this with younger kids or anyone with any medical issues.  It's actually a bit dangerous if you're not diligent.  They'll tell you it's a 2 hour hike round trip.  THEY LIE.  It's at least 5 hours to complete the floor and the rim.  But it's all worth it to slide down the Sliding Rock into a cold pool of water while hawks circle overhead...

28 April 2015


Brady and I have been back in the states for a few weeks now...and I must admit that it still feels a little strange to wake up in our own bed.  Work has claimed our immediate attention since there are festivals, graduations, bike races and a gazillion other events happening in the glorious Athens spring weather we've been having lately.  Despite that though we've made time to cook meals together like we did regularly in Europe and to take small trips out to parks to kayak or just take quiet walks.  Reflection has been front and center as has new passion for travel and adventure and the future, and I could not be happier with how I feel right now.  Europe changed my life.

That said, you may have noticed that the blog went private for a bit.  I had someone from my past contact me via the blog and I honestly had no idea how to respond so I just shut it down til I decided what to do.  And what I'm doing is moving forward with no regrets, no negativity and no desire to open up doors to that part of my past.  I've learned from my mistakes.  I've become much more patient and caring.  I'm not angry anymore.  I'm so different than that struggling early 30's version of me because of that version of me.  So, person from my past, I wish you well.  I wish things had been better for us both.  I wish you happiness.  And I wish that your future be bright.  And a bid you a fond farewell.

Accept what is.  Let go what was.  Believe in what will be.

05 February 2015

It's Adventure Time!

I'm back for a second to give an update on our European/world trip but before I do let me state that:

a) yes, I'm still recycling Paradise Garden pictures

b) Brady will be mad if he know I used this photo because he looks kind of crazy/creepy in it and he hates it but I think it's hysterical

While I didn't debate too hard on what picture to use, I have mulled it over about posting here again...on what has become a pretty defunct blog.  But the thought of being able to meet some of y'all face-to-face while on our upcoming journey was just too much of siren's song to ignore.  So, if you happen to live near or will be near any of the following locales then please send me an email so we can meet up!

Iceland - Reykjavik & Keflavik
U.K. - London
Spain - Barcelona
Germany - Munich & Berlin
Austria - Salzburg
Slovenia - Bled
Croatia - Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Hvar, etc
Montenegró - Kotor (maybe)
Hungary - Budapest
Czech Republic - Prague
Belgium - Bruges & Brussels

We will only be in London for 24 hours for a layover and dinner with friends on the first route but we may there longer on the return route.

Munich = 2 days only with one day of travel outside of Munich (still unknown destination).

Any and all suggestions are welcome!  We have lodging in London, Spain, Munich and Salzburg but are still looking for the rest via airbnb and other sites.

My email is gritsandmoxieathens@gmail.com.  Please feel free to contact me any time!

Thanks so much y'all.  And I hope you are all doing well, happy and healthy in 2015...

29 December 2014

And Now What?

In 3 days it'll be a new year.  Happy New Year, y'all!

In 3 days we will be all moved in to our new place.  Finally!

In 3 days I'll no longer have Internet in my home.  Are we crazy?  Maybe.

We're putting away a few things in order to concentrate on our upcoming trip, our new home and our relationship as a couple.  It's a good thing.  Great, even.  *said in a Snagglepuss voice*

So, that said, I have absolutely no idea what is to become of this blog.  It's gone in so many different directions and has covered so many things!  Hopefully I'll be around a bit but I just don't know...

Anyhoo, I truly hope to see all y'all around in one way or another.  Please email me or send postcards because I'm still down for keeping in touch.  Really, I miss y'all.

Love to you!

09 December 2014

Paradise Gardens - Part 3...

Yep, Howard Finster is still a big part of our interests as of late at Casa Keene-Carrington.  Brady just completed a class presentation on our trip there and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someone will host the documentary film Paradise Gardens again soon since I missed it last time when it showed in Atlanta...

Other than that we've been busy at work (duh, the usual) but it feels different since every dime is going toward our upcoming trip.  I do promise to try to catch up on my old emails and get in touch with you lovely folks about places to see in Europe.  We're still taking recommendations!  Germany, France (tentatively), Barcelona, Switzerland, Prague, Austria, Budapest, the UK, Iceland, Belgium and maybe Copenhagen if we have time.  *happy dance*

And I've been culling the house goods like mad since our move is now days away.  *gulp*  I haven't been too stressed about it though since we are moving literally mere yards from our current location...

Brady graduates next weekend and we've got a lot going on between now and then so this blog will probably be radio silent for a while yet again.  I do hope all y'all have a lovely day!

27 November 2014

Thankful For...

I've mentioned before, numerous times in fact, that I am not a rabid fan of most (ok, almost all) holidays that are celebrated here in the US.  I'm more of a 'seasons' celebratory gal.  It's my personal preference and I certainly don't mind if other folks fall into the experience of Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc, etc with their whole heart.  Really, I don't.  Well, maybe just a bit when I've just heard Dashing Through The Snow for the 15th time in 2 days and it's still November.  And killing turkeys isn't my thing.  But I love lights, snowflakes, pies and aprons so I'm definitely on board with some of the aspects that fit into the late year celebrations.  See, I'm not too much of a curmudgeon.  Now, get off my lawn you meddling kids!

The truth is that I do love what the integral parts of the holidays entail - kindness, generosity, goodwill towards others and being thankful for what you have right now.  That last part is something I'm trying to do right now in my life.  Daily.  Sometimes hourly.  Being thankful means being present and aware and knowing when to stop adding shit to your new house wishlist and just be grateful you have a house during this incredible cold snap.  That's my first unofficial 'thankful for' item - having a roof over my head (that isn't covered in 9 feet of snow)...

Other things I'm thankful for:
  1. Fluffy kitties and old chihuahuas.  The love they give.  Oh y'all.  The love.  I'm so glad I have them all...

  2. Friends/Family.  I'm lucky enough to have a supportive and loving group of people that tell me often how much they believe in me.  It's like my own Stuart Smalley segment but with them giving me thumbs up from behind the mirror...

  3. That Athens is my current town.  While we have definitely toyed with the idea of moving, and still are thinking of it a year or so from now (maybe), I'm really glad we moved here when we did.  We've changed our lifestyle drastically (no more visiting bars every night of the week or smoking or drinking constantly or searching for myself in all the wrong places) and have set some great goals during our life here.  I'm traveling more, photographing more stuff, reading more and have found a career that I adore.  Brady is finishing his last semester, thinking of graduate school and has found a (tentative) career path he'd like to try out.  It feels like we're new people 'round here.  We know some great people and we have been lucky in so many ways since we've become Athenians

  4.  Comfy shoes.  I'm almost 40.  Two months and counting!  I need them and I'm so glad that I have them.  My feet/back/mind are super happy.  It's the little things, eh?

  5.  My health.  It hasn't been great thanks in part to genetics and part to some stupid lifestyle choices but I'm still thankful for what I have.  And hopefully the better decisions I'm making in regards to food and booze will help in the future.

  6.  My job/career.  It's a double mention from #3 but it bears repeating.  10 years of higher education, 1 master's, 1 almost (1 semester lacking) 2nd master's + a move to Athens = finding what I love in the form of baked goods.  Seriously, I love what I do and I hope to always have my hands in flour or sugar.

  7.  My ability to travel.  My job, my personal desire to explore, my partner's willingness to join me and a doggy/kitty sitter (hi Mom!) who's willing to watch our critters for days, weeks and even months at a time = us traveling locally, nationally and soon-to-be internationally.  It's my passion (besides photography and reading) and I'm so grateful that I can indulge in it.
What are you thankful for today and everyday?

19 November 2014

My Life In Pictures...

Well, I just dropped a couple of posts on y'all and then ducked out, didn't I?  A big THANK YOU to all of you emailing and commenting on my impending trip.  I promise that I'm going to respond ASAP but right now I'm working overtime in order to help out a few folks from work as well as getting in a bit of extra cash before our move/trip.  So.  Much.  Stuff.  About.  To.  Happen.  Whoa.

Other than that I've been making pies, wrangling doggies, packing, scoping thrift stores for a perfect coat for the trip, doing Neti pots like crazy to combat my sinus problems and dreaming of seeing Birdman.  The latter, fingers crossed, will happen tonight!  I've also been avoiding a lot of social media because folks are already going crazy posting Christmas/Xmas stuff.  I'm one of those people who doesn't really find any of these holidays appealing (blasphemy?!?) but I'm not a Scrooge (too much) about them either.  But I just don't understand putting up decorations months and/or weeks in advance.  I'm going to have to become a hermit here shortly in order to avoid the holiday madness, eh?

Anyhoo, happy Wednesday to y'all!

13 November 2014

Remembering Goals...

It's almost here.  Yep.  The BIG 4-0 that everyone talks about like it's end days.  For me, it's another decade that I hope to complete.  That I hope is the best yet because, I'll be honest here, I feel like I'm just finding my groove in life.  My face and butt might sag a bit but my spirits are high.  Y'all, that's the best I could hope for!

Ok, I thought I'd give an update, probably the last before my birthday, of my 100 Before 40 goal list.  Which, might I add, has some things on it that a) will not be met ever b) will not be met until I'm 40 or older c) are no longer interesting or d) are downright silly.  Heh.  I plan to share a few more specifics if I remember to document some of these properly...
  1.  See the Northern Lights (ongoing)
  2. Write a book
  3. Experience a class III rapids adventure 
  4. Play under a waterfall
  5. Learn Spanish (ongoing)
  6. Walk on hot coals…like in the movies!
  7. Learn how to play the saw (ongoing)
  8. Put my hand/name in wet concrete
  9. Do a zipline
  10. Meet Tom Waits
  11. Ride a mattress down a flight of stairs
  12. Shave a part of my head
  13. Foster baby possums
  14. Stay at the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island
  15. Meet the Dali Lama (I went to see him speak so I'm going to count this)
  16. Visit all the US National Parks (ongoing)
  17. Quit smoking
  18. Go vegan for at least 6 months
  19. Go internet free for at least 6 months
  20. Make a simple dress
  21. Kayak to Billy’s Island
  22. Learn how to make a daisy chain
  23. Run a 5k
  24. Re-read all Tom Robbins books
  25. Learn how to identify at least 15 birds
  26. Make a decorative pillow
  27. Kayak down the Broad River
  28. Relearn cloud classifications/names
  29. Paint a painting
  30. Submit a photo to a contest
  31. Not bring home a single plastic bag for at least 6 months (ongoing)
  32. Lose 15lbs…the healthy way!
  33. Eat at least 30 cheeses that I’ve never had before nixing this one
  34. Make dandelion wine
  35. Host a couchsurfer every month for 6 months
  36. Learn how to make/roll sushi
  37. Grow out my bangs
  38. Go without turning on electricity/gas/power for a day
  39. Build a blanket fort
  40. Make fresh pasta
  41. Help create 10 random acts of kindness
  42. Roll down a grassy hill
  43. Do one craft a week (ongoing...kind of)
  44. Go to a proper high tea
  45. …and learn how to make an edible scone…*sigh*...and maybe Devonshire cream?
  46. Make a stencil for house goods
  47. Learn how to make a good Bloody Mary mix
  48. Take a ride in a hot air balloon
  49. Learn how to triple skip a stone
  50. Hike part of the Appalachian Trail
  51. Write/email/call a politician every month regarding animal rights issues
  52. Help create a GA blogger group and/or meetup
  53. Stand on the White Cliffs of Dover
  54. Make a short film – either fiction or documentary – and post online
  55. Sponsor a needy child
  56. Create the perfect Mac & Cheese recipe
  57. Try to recreate Amelie’s wardrobe
  58. Go to a Diane Arbus or Steiglitz exhibit
  59. Learn how to rock climb
  60. Draw a self-portrait
  61. Learn archery
  62. Read every banned book (ongoing)
  63. Learn how to ride the tandem with confidence
  64. Two words: paint fight!
  65. Sleep in a yurt
  66. Start saving for RV
  67. Learn how to cook breads and other goodies in/over a campfire
  68. Make palak paneer
  69. Visit a sweat lodge
  70. Travel to Finland/Ireland and finish the family tree for Grandma (future)
  71. Finish the damn list
  72. Learn how to smile properly in photos and stop scaring folks with my half scowl
  73. Learn to enjoy the art of silence
  74. Watch 1/8 of the Criterion Collection - that’s about 100 movies! (ongoing)
  75. Host a wine tasting at my home for all my friends
  76. No more chattering when I’m nervous - just keep mouth shut...
  77. Take a pottery class and make an awesome bowl
  78. Build a birdhouse
  79. Learn how to use a whip a la Indiana Jones
  80. Have a bonfire on the beach and then sleep under the stars - maybe via a long awaited return trip to Cumberland Island(future)
  81. Conquer my fear of heights
  82. Read 1 book a week (ongoing)
  83. Volunteer somewhere for an entire year (ongoing)
  84. Sign up and take free classes...learn something!
  85. Build a small greenhouse
  86. Learn to play pool (ongoing)
  87. Take a cooking class (ongoing)
  88. Build a snow fort
  89. Learn how to take care of a bonsai tree
  90. Do a polar bear swim
  91. Pay off my student loans (hahahaha! what was I thinking?)
  92. Learn how to make the perfect pie crust
  93. Research and buy only cruelty-free products
  94. Practice, memorize and complete an entire movement set for Tai Chi (ongoing)
  95. Learn 100 ASL signs
  96. Pose for a family portrait - me, Brady and all the critters
  97. Learn calligraphy
  98. Attend a TED Talk
  99. Become better organized (ongoing)
  100. Be featured in a newspaper
  101. Learn to trapeze (not happening after major surgery)
  102. Cultivate patience (ongoing) 
And there we go!  That's what I have so far and I'm trying my darndest to keep up with the majority of the list.  I'll be happy that I finished 50% of it let alone a possible 75%.  *fingers crossed*

Have you got any goals to finish by the end of the year too?  If they're similar maybe we could link up somehow and celebrate!

11 November 2014

Paradise Gardens - Part 2...

I took over 500 photos at Howard Finster's place and I could've taken 500 more if I hadn't been a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number and complexity of his creations.  Seriously, how does one person make over 50,000 pieces of 2D and 3D art?  It boggles the mind...

There's a video here that goes into a brief description of his work and illustrates how far reaching his artwork is.  Now, y'all know I'm not a religious person by any means but I have a great respect for people that channel their spirituality and passion into creating things that uplift and inspire.  Such a fascinating history here!

10 November 2014

Dreaming Of Travel...

I took this photo earlier this summer while kicking back in the hammock.  That day I read a few books on my Kindle (old favorites) and then put that away so I could drowse and dream about going to places I'd never been.  Fast forward a few months and amazingly enough those dreams are starting to become a reality.  Jen and Brady are going to Europe!  Woohoo!

Passports are applied for and I started my itinerary outline last week.  We're going to start our adventure in London in late February and we'll be staying in Europe until the end of March or beginning of April.  On the schedule (tentatively) is Ireland, Germany, Faroe Islands, France (not necessarily Paris), Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.  So, what I need now is some suggestions from y'all.  Where to go.  What to see.  How to get there.  Any suggestions on traveling to numerous countries within that time frame.  We especially love parks, vistas and historical venues.  And beer and wine and whiskey, duh.  And books.  And food.  We're going during the early months to avoid crowds and overtly touristy experiences.  We do not speak any language other than (bad) English.  We are on a budget so nothing extravagant except for splurges.

And, of course, I'd love to see you if you are near us!

Send me an email at gritsandmoxieathens@gmail.com if you have a moment.  I'd really appreciate it...

06 November 2014

Paradise Garden - Part 1...

In case you didn't know I'm an avid, rabid fan of outsider art.  R.A.  MillerWickhamBill Traylor.  And, my personal favorite, Howard Finster.  He has a whole garden of creations involving mirrors, glass, cement, bike parts, copper wires, ceramic shards, bible quotes and general junk stuff that ranges over 4 acres.  While it was severely neglected after his death, Paradise Garden has been slowly undergoing a restoration and we were lucky enough to be able to visit during our recent mini-getaway.  Actually, in truth, the whole weekend revolved around going to this place...

Reverend Howard Finster, a self proclaimed  “Man of Visions”, was one of America’s most widely known and prolific self-taught artists producing over 46,991 pieces of art before his death in 2001. He saw himself as a sacred artist, tirelessly recording his visionary prophesies and providing glimpses of a celestial outer space world that God revealed to him. These visionary journeys were very real for Finster, providing a limitless variety of images for his creative endeavors.

Born in rural Alabama in 1916, Finster went on to become a preacher, tent revivalist, and “master of 22 different trades” before building his roadside tribute to inventors the Plant Farm Museum. Later dubbed “Paradise Garden,” this rock and junk encrusted wonderland became the focus of Finster’s life work. In 1976, however, this focus shifted. As he was using his fingers to apply paint to a refurbished bicycle, Finster noticed that the paint smudge on the tip of his finger had formed a human face. A voice spoke to him, saying, “paint sacred art.” Finster began churning out thousands of sermon-laden artworks with subjects ranging from historical characters and popular culture icons like Elvis Presley to evangelistic fantasy landscapes and futuristic cities. Most works are meticulously coated in Finster’s own hand-lettered words and Biblical verse.

To spread his vision to a wider audience, Finster designed record album covers for rock groups such as R.E.M. and Talking Heads, later earning him Record Album Cover of the year by Rolling Stone Magazine. Interviews, films, and his famous appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson further advanced his evangelical message. Finster’s preaching experience and his showman-like personality helped to shape his public persona and ever-increasing celebrity. The industry that surrounded Finster’s name ended up defining his final years. Finster’s intentions remained true to his inner voice—to make sacred art. Well-known and often misunderstood, his position is suspended somewhere between awe for his tireless, faith driven creativity and his esteemed place in the pantheon of contemporary American art. He has been called  both “the grandfather of Southern Folk Art” and “the Andy Warhol of the South.”