R.E.M., Talking Heads Cover Artist Rev. Howard Finster Dies

Athens group filmed 'Radio Free Europe' video in Baptist minister's Paradise Gardens.

Folk artist Rev. Howard Finster, known to rock audiences for paintings that appear on the covers of R.E.M.’s Reckoning and Talking Heads’ Little Creatures, died Monday near his home in Georgia. He was 84.

Finster died at the Redmond Regional Medical Center in Rome, Georgia of congestive heart failure, according to a spokesperson for the Erwin-Pettit Funeral Home in Finster’s hometown of Summerville.

During Monday’s Groundwork Concert in Seattle, R.E.M. dedicated “Find the River” from 1992′s Automatic for the People to Finster (see “Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Morissette Turn Music Into Ploughshares At Groundwork Concert” ).

A Baptist minister, the self-taught Finster began creating his rough-hewn, often evangelical works in the 1950s. By the 1980s, his art had drawn the attention of New York art galleries, while his backyard collection of sculptures, mosaics and paintings called Paradise Gardens drew visitors from around the world. Many of the Paradise Gardens works are on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

Finster’s cover for Georgia-based R.E.M.’s Reckoning (1984) depicted a twisting snake upon which the album’s song titles were written. The group also filmed the video for “Radio Free Europe” in Paradise Gardens in 1983. The art for the Heads’ Little Creatures (1985) included caricatures of the bandmembers — including David Byrne in his underwear, carrying the world on his shoulders.