Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


It is unseemly to rejoice in the misfortune of others, especially those who have done us no personal harm. Unseemly, but human nevertheless.

Such was my mirth in reading this week that "Painter of Light" Thomas Kinkade had filed for bankruptcy on June 2 and been arrested for drunk driving nine days later.

I have no cause to bear him ill other than his two egregious offences against my sensibilities. First, he exploited his very public Christian faith not just in his art, but to dupe and bully his commercial associates. Second, his paintings are godawful.

What makes an artwork, otherwise technically competent, dreadful? There are many answers and their elucidation is best reserved for late nights with alcohol. But Kinkade's is an obvious case: his art is exactly why the word kitsch was coined. He makes a frontal assault on our senses much the way that movie music of the fifties, played on a hundred violins, dictated to us precisely which emotions we were supposed to feel. No wonder Czech writer Milan Kundera identified kitsch with totalitarianism where "all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions".

CGI parody of a Kinkade painting, from somethingawful.com. Perhaps this was inspired by Joan Didion's critique in which she wrote: "A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire." Click on the picture for a closer look.

1 comment:

DUTA said...

The cottage in the above picture (parody) looks indeed sinister. I believe , though, that Kinkade's intent was to show a cosy, idyllic cottage of a nice, christian family.
As in real life, so in art - playing too much with light and fire could have an adverse outcome.

Anyway, it seems Kinkade is like many other artists in the world - an average painter with a drinking tendency, commercializing his art by taking advantage of people's religious beliefs.

The words used in this post: 'kitsch', 'shadefreude' (both german words)and 'totalitarianism' - made me think ,unwillingly, of Hitler, a mediocre painter who wasn't accepted for studies at the Academy of Art in Wien. What a pity he had been rejected! That rejection opened for him the way to politics and ...The rest is known.