Virginia folk artist Eldridge Bagley tells the stories of life in a small town on canvas.
by Jake Cole Until March 12, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University exhibited the works of Georgian folk artist Howard Finster. A former Baptist reverend who painted sacred art, Finster committed himself to art in 1976, and when he died in 2001, left more than 46,000 works. Fortunately, many of them can be seen in the permanent collection at Atlanta's High Museum of Art. Of all the artists throughout history to dedicate their services unto God, Finster is the most like a child who brings home deformed, papier-mâché atrocities for Mom, who must warily tack them on the fridge to avoid a scene. Disproportionate body features—all bulging eyes and Cubist rictus grins—typify Finster’s paintings and sculptures. Using pop culture icons like Elvis, historical figures like George Washington and religious figures such as John the Baptist, Finster crafted screwball paeans to God using everything from tractor acrylic to the tools he once used to repair bicycles. A consummate showman, Finster built his magnum opus, a sprawling den of ever-expanding folk art dubbed “Paradise Gardens,” as a roadside attraction. It bordered on satire, presenting faith as an outdated curio for bored families looking for something to pacify pestering children. In