Mike Mills talks REM & Howard Finster

July 13, 20140 Comments

Mike Mills and the Art West Film production crewMike Mills, one of the founding members of the rock band REM, talked to us about their visits to Paradise Garden and his personal experiences with Howard Finster. In the early 1980’s, REM recorded their first music video from their debut album Murmur, for the single “Radio Free Europe.” During the filming of the music video, Mills suffered a knee injury, which allowed him to spend more time with Howard Finster. He explained that he ended up sitting with Reverend Finster while he dropped a doll down a plank, which played a recurring role in the video. Mills made many subsequent visits to Paradise Garden over the years to visit Reverend Finster, as well as a few after he died. Mills recalls, “I tend to look for beauty in everyday objects. When I find something that catches my eye, I try to just enjoy the beauty of it, in that moment. I enjoy that as much as going to a museum. And so Paradise Garden was a combination of going to a museum and just finding something on the ground that was beautiful. It was sort of right in the middle of those two things and that is what I loved about it.” He also shared with us that he was excited to see the recent renovations of the Garden that were completed in July of 2013.

Mills talks about the integral role that REM and others had in promoting Howard Finster’s work to a broader audience. He remembers being on tour when the band first started and experiencing that much of the world had a skewed impression of Southern people. The band felt like promoting the South and Southern culture was an extension of their “us against the world mentality.” He told us, “Clearly the South has a lot of baggage, but we wanted to show people that it is a great place to grow up and a great place to be, so we decided to use this great heritage, artistic and storytelling, and quirky creative genius that we have down South to show people that, so the word got out.”

Mills talked about his first impression of Paradise Garden as a beautiful and fascinating place. He told us about his perspective as a native of Georgia and the Southern United States about the advent of Outsider art. He said, “I had seen smaller things like that in the South. People tended to do things like that, people collected things, sometimes people used them, I didn’t think of it as art at the time, I just thought it was people piling up their stuff. It wasn’t a huge shock to me that he was doing that, but on the scale that he was doing it was amazing, the house of bicycles, where you walk under this mountain of bicycles was both beautiful and terrifying because you couldn’t tell what was holding it up. Just all the glass and everything that he imprinted or stuck in the ground, or imprinted into concrete, it made sense to me, but I had never seen anything on that scale.”

You can see more of his interview in the upcoming film about Paradise Garden and the legacy of Howard Finster. Find out more about the latest film updates on our Facebook/paradisegardenfilm page, we will share upcoming screenings in film festivals and theaters in 2014.

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