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Analyzing the Artwork of Thomas Kinkade
March 6, 2012 1:11 AM   Subscribe

Drew Dernavich at The Awl has taken it upon himself to analyze the artwork in the 2012 Thomas Kinkade wall calendar. He has analyzed January, February and March.

"Are you a Kinkade admirer yet? If not, there's still time—we’ve still got [nine] months to go."
posted by deborah (62 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
This was funny. Will it still be funny by the time he gets to December?
posted by lollusc at 1:25 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


This would be funnier if he actually managed to tie his analysis more tightly into the paintings. He should have started off more slowly with some accurate criticisms and slowly added in more outrageous and absurd claims as he went along. Instead he just goes straight to the punchline which is so off-the-wall and lacking in subtlety that it fails for me.

I like the concept better than the execution.
posted by j03 at 2:28 AM on March 6, 2012 [20 favorites]


Or maybe he should have started with one of the classics, like Plate of Beans.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:26 AM on March 6, 2012


"can you name any other fine artist who has so thoroughly dominated the intellectual territory between Lids and Things Remembered?"

So much win. But yeah, would have loved more that came from the actual art. It's not like there isn't tons to critique.
posted by Mchelly at 4:28 AM on March 6, 2012


Read an article recently that suggested an older generation marked coolness by the music you listened to, where later generations mark it by sense of funny.

If true, it could explain the glut of attempted funny out there, most of it fairly predictable. j03's distinction of concept better than execution holds here. Once the premise is made, you can do the rest myself.

Part of this I suppose is the problem of the deadline and unquenchable demand for content. There just aren't that many people who can be regularly funny on schedule. The fact that he's asking us to hang in for twelve of these things, well....

Perhaps we need a moratorium on humor. Just a a few months should do it.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:33 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was ready to really enjoy a more serious critique. Maybe slip a bit of WTF in on the sly, but this is WTF zany non sequitor stuff by the shovelful, it is too much too soon.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:34 AM on March 6, 2012


...can you name any other fine artist who has so thoroughly dominated the intellectual territory between Lids and Things Remembered?

Readers searching the articles for giggles need go no further. This line is the high point.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:49 AM on March 6, 2012


Dernavich is the Thomas Kinkade of humor.
posted by hexatron at 4:53 AM on March 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I was all ready for art critique catnip, or at least a chuckle or two.

The January picture is vanilla. It's not even awful, as far as fridge magnets go.

Honestly? I'd prefer to be inside that fridge-magnet house with the fireplace and the glowing windows than on this guys site reading this piss-poor satire.
posted by panaceanot at 4:55 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


@indigojones

i am about ready for this generation to be over, myself
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:58 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thomas Kincaid is the Cory Doctorow of fine art.
posted by humanfont at 5:03 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


also there are no class overtones to some person who literally writes for the awl "critiquing"/making fun of a painter who is known to be a favorite of the 'culturally impoverished'

none at all, nope
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:03 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


To critique my own comment:

Honestly? I'd prefer to be inside that fridge-magnet house with the fireplace and the glowing windows

"Of course you would! Ever heard of Dickens? How quaint you find it 'vanilla', when that is *exactly* what it is... an idealised, baby-boomer, white nostalgia-porn cottage. You would prefer the satire to be more incisive? Write your own then, you self entitled ass."
posted by panaceanot at 5:17 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


also there are no class overtones to some person who literally writes for the awl "critiquing"/making fun of a painter who is known to be a favorite of the 'culturally impoverished'

Apparently he's a New Yorker cartoonist to boot. What a snob!
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:24 AM on March 6, 2012


"March" was pretty funny.
posted by thivaia at 5:42 AM on March 6, 2012


The one for March was the funniest because it gave a practical critique of the scenario in the painting rather than indulging in some flight of fancy:

While there's certainly much to recommend it as a residence.... this level of immaculate rusticity is surely financially ruinous to maintain. When a stone wall requires repair, the owner cannot simply summon a mason, but must instead ask the Historical Society to appoint an art restorer. The savings that would ordinarily go toward the kids' college fund instead must go to updating the plumbing. I count one, two, three, four, five wisps of smoke, which means five fireplaces, and five fires that need constant tending to. (This does not include the kitchen table nor the living-room furniture, which also appear to be on fire.)

Heh!

also there are no class overtones to some person who literally writes for the awl "critiquing"/making fun of a painter who is known to be a favorite of the 'culturally impoverished'

There's a big difference between ridiculing cheesy art or terrible fiction or crappy music that has a big audience and ridiculing the people who like those things.
posted by orange swan at 5:42 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I almost stopped reading after January, because the over-the-top silliness ruined the great idea, but March seems to be hitting the right notes:

We know that Kinkade doesn’t paint from nature; he’s too smart for that. The actual world of creation, in all its terrifying rawness and spontaneity, is far too dangerous. Better to draw inspiration from the tamer kingdom: the world of the indoors. After all, what better way to convey a sense of homey contentedness than to use the same colors found in such ordinary household objects as Cracker Jack boxes, Trivial Pursuit wedges, American Girl packaging, junk mail flyers for the President’s Day sale at your local Chevrolet dealer.

When Dernavich uses (something approaching) real art critique terms for these essays, they're very funny. When he just mocks without even referencing the painting itself, it seems cheap and stuck on the cleverness of coming up with the idea itself.
posted by xingcat at 5:49 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


humanfont: "Thomas Kincaid is the Cory Doctorow of fine art."

As somebody who doesn't particularly care for Cory Doctorow's writing or politics, let me say that this is downright insulting to him.

Cory might not be the best writer out there, but, unlike Kinkade, he'd probably agree with that statement, and also seems like a pretty decent guy with good intentions at heart. Cory's work also isn't completely insufferable; this has been discussed elsewhere on the Blue and the Grey, but a lot of the Cory-hate seems to stem from the fact that a lot of us enjoy about half of what he has to say, but find the other half to be grating at times.

On the other hand, Kinkade's a far more skillful con-artist than visual artist. Good grief.
posted by schmod at 5:52 AM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I thought these were pretty funny throughout, but I lost it when he described "mother and son ambling up the road in the distant foreground."

"Distant foreground?" I thought. "What does that mean? Surely..."

Then I looked at the painting more closely.

They really are in the distant foreground. There's no other way to describe it. How does Kinkade do it?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:57 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, who buys Kinkade's stuff?
posted by crunchland at 6:04 AM on March 6, 2012


My mom and my aunts.
posted by Kitteh at 6:08 AM on March 6, 2012


What's even worse is that this cretin doesn't even have a basic grasp of perspective. The bridge looks skewed, as does the little white cottage.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:13 AM on March 6, 2012


I liked March the best, too, especially this line:

I count one, two, three, four, five wisps of smoke, which means five fireplaces, and five fires that need constant tending to. (This does not include the kitchen table nor the living-room furniture, which also appear to be on fire.)

Painter of Light™, indeed!
posted by TedW at 6:19 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


March was funny. It doesn't make up for January, but then it never does.
posted by Floydd at 6:23 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, Kinkade's a far more skillful con-artist than visual artist.

Wait, how is that supposed to work? He cons people into thinking they like his artwork?

It might be comforting to suppose a person would have to be brainwashed to like Kinkade's paintings, but I'm afraid that's not the case for quite a lot of people.
posted by straight at 7:03 AM on March 6, 2012


also there are no class overtones to some person who literally writes for the awl "critiquing"/making fun of a painter who is known to be a favorite of the 'culturally impoverished'

If you're going to defend someone in this situation, you should defend the people Kincaid ripped off so bad that he's being investigated by the FBI for his business practices. He's a con artist and deserves to be taken down, regardless of the class of people who like his art.

Also, SPOILER ALERT his ripped-from-the-headlines character analogue on Law and Order turned out to be the killer.

So, who buys Kinkade's stuff?

Lower-to-middle middle class Christians into hokey art and people trying to make money off them. Kinkade's stuff is touted as an investment as much as it is art.
posted by griphus at 7:04 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll keep reading if there's one of Thomas Kinkade's NASCAR paintings in that calendar.
posted by artychoke at 7:06 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, how is that supposed to work? He cons people into thinking they like his artwork?

Thomas Kinkade's has a really well-thought out business model that involves getting people to buy his art to display in galleries and re-sell. He's got hella name recognition, a massive amount of related merchandising and so on. It's not as much "brainwashing" as it is the equivalent of getting people to buy swampland in Florida as a real estate investment.
posted by griphus at 7:07 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing has been done before, and better. It's pretty easy to mock, "critique" is something much more difficult and interesting.

Myself, I too would like to see a serious analysis of this. Kinkade *is* preferred by the culturally impoverished, including my yokel relatives, many of whom moved from their charming rural cottages to Arizona condos near golf courses. There's something horribly fascinating about the America he's selling to illiterate people in artificial places like shopping malls. It's the "real" America of family values and Jesus that Republicans and Fox news promise us, but it is an America that is totally removed from the reality of the people who buy this up. In many cases, this fantasy America was willingly given up for cable TV, cheap SUVs, and gas station hot dogs. Do people buy this to soothe their anxiety that they willingly had a hand in destroying that which they consider is great about America? Does it provide grounding for them before they commute an hour to their minimum wage jobs at Buy and Large?

There, I'm no critic, but I've officially put more thought into this than Dernavich.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:08 AM on March 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, I see what you mean. Convincing people to go from, "Aw, that's a pretty scene" to "Hey this is great art that's gonna be worth a lot of money someday and make me rich."
posted by straight at 7:09 AM on March 6, 2012


There's something to be said for the angst that Santorum recently tapped into when he said that Obama was a snob for wanting everyone to go to college. I mean, sure, it's pandering for a guy who has three degrees to say such a thing, but there's an audience that's smart enough to resent being called stupid for liking stuff like Kinkade's art.
posted by crunchland at 7:15 AM on March 6, 2012


The first time I heard of Kinkade I was working as a computer operator at a company that had a lot of customer service reps out in the ex-urbs in the late 1980's. There were things called 'painting parties' that were like Tupperware and everyone was having them. It was a frenzy. You would choose your painting at the party (the big variables seemed to be size and the season depicted) and they's be shipped out later. All the ladies got them shipped to the office so as to show off their 'sofa-sized' Kinkade (big$$$).

Everyone was talking about them as an investment and telling me I was missing out on the next big thing. These are the same people that bought Beanie Babies as investments. But maybe those first generation are worth something considering that they were 'sofa-sized'.
posted by readery at 7:20 AM on March 6, 2012


So, who buys Kinkade's stuff?
posted by crunchland


Kinkaid is, if not the highest selling living artist, then in the top 5. WSJ has profiled his money machine. He sells prints on canvas, that have some brush strokes added on top, and are signed with Sharpies. The documentary I saw showed the signing process, where he was going through crates of Sharpies.

Like the Franklin mint, his sales depend in part on representing that these things will appreciate in value, although that has never actually happened.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:25 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would take Metafilter's disdain for Kinkade more seriously if it didn't sound just like Metafilter's disdain for Damien Hirst.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:32 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, SPOILER ALERT his ripped-from-the-headlines character analogue on Law and Order turned out to be the killer.

They say that all the money has gone to his head, and that he's been all, "I'm Thomas Kinkaid, bitch!" He was arrested for public urination in the lobby of a Las Vegas casino.

His work, being commercial transactional performance art, is every bit as valid as, say, Damien Hirst's.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:36 AM on March 6, 2012


Damien Hirst has the virtue of being funnier.
posted by silby at 7:38 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


That they're being sold as investments is the best part, for me. No no no it's nothing as trival as decoration or aesthetic enjoyment, these are MONEY MAKERS that will pay for themselves later on! Why you'd be crazy not to buy!

In this one object we have a perfect storm of American temperaments: Puritanical suspicion of pleasure, the idea of "investing" in aesthetic objects to justify their purpose, the mass-produced being paraded as the authentic, kitschy nostalgia for fantasy past, and a gloss of Christian Wholesomeness laid over a ton of stealing, shady business deals, real estate scams, and outright cons.

It's beautiful really. If you put it in a book it'd be too on the nose. Thomas Kinkade may in fact be the most American thing on earth.
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 AM on March 6, 2012 [22 favorites]


OK not to needlessly godwin this thing here, but the line about, "whitewashing the humanity from the scene," made me realize what makes Kinkade cross the line from forgettable greeting card to christ this is an assault on thousands of years of art. He paints worse than Hitler!

Hitler at least included people in his paintings, even if they were all faceless clones, but Kinkade denies that people exist at all. The only trace of humanity is the lights on and the smoke from the chimneys of the houses surrounded by snow unmarred by human footprints. The wood pile isn't even disturbed in that first one! There aren't even any conveyances anywhere. His world is populated by (presumably) people who are holed up in their warm worlds, insulated against all outside realities good or bad. You never even see anyone looking out a window.

It's a perfect and fittingly one-dimensional metaphor for the worldviews of the kind of safe-art, obliged-to-feign-culture chunderheads that buy this shit.
posted by cmoj at 8:34 AM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thomas Kinkade may in fact be the most American thing on earth.

I need to hunt thrift stores for a Kinkade to display ironically.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:54 AM on March 6, 2012


I think I've only just noticed how bad Kinkade's perspective is... there's some angles so non-euclidean there I'm half expecting Yog-Sothoth to come bursting out.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:06 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: Hitler at least included people in his paintings
posted by ob at 9:28 AM on March 6, 2012


This is one of those things where the target is so obvious, there's not a lot of joy in making fun.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:52 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's beautiful really. If you put it in a book it'd be too on the nose. Thomas Kinkade may in fact be the most American thing on earth.

The more I think about it, it's punk as fuck. I mean, he's doing the same thing as Andy Warhol's Factory with zero apparent irony. He even includes the Jesus fish in his signature.

I want so hard to believe he's having it on because that would make him the most brilliant, most post modern, most *American* artist yet.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:54 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yep, the con isn't the art (though that's crap, but crap in a way that lots of other people have made vast sums on during the years; I have a bunch of 1890s chromolithos in the basement that look like Kinkade paintings complete with the glowing cottage windows and the picturesque snow, though for some reason these often have robins in them as well HOPE KINKADE DOESN'T GET ANY IDEAS).

The con is the actual confidence game of signing paintings he didn't actually make and capitalizing on some vague Evangelical Christian hoo-ha to woo suckers and basically flat-out bullshitting about the "investment potential" of buying the shitty paintings created by underpaid drones and signed by him as he swans around the factory treating his employees like crap.

And of course, the self-presentation as Mr. Christian Painter Guy while he goes around pissing in hotel lobbies and driving drunk and generally acting like Jackson Pollock without the talent.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:55 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


My Largely Mythological Husband says that all the Kinkade paintings depict two minutes after The Rapture.

Or, he says, maybe Kinkade is like Bierstadt and is just terrible at drawing people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:56 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean, he's doing the same thing as Andy Warhol's Factory with zero apparent irony.

Different marketing tactics in different markets.
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on March 6, 2012


Everyone I know who has interviewed Kinkade says he completely believes his own hype. He's like a mashup of William Jennings Bryan and Andy Warhol.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:01 AM on March 6, 2012


crunchland: So, who buys Kinkade's stuff?

Yeah, some Christians find the stuff comforting. In college, I was born-again for a while, before I became cynical, or something of the sort. I went with fellow college Christians on some retreat, and we stayed with a very nice couple, probably in their 50s. I don't remember much of them, but their love of Thomas Kinkade and his paintings. They said something along the lines that he had a new style, where the images were less distinct, set in a pleasant sort of haze. They were thrilled with his new style, as if Impressionism had never happened. And he is such a good Christian man, they said. All this came after I took an art history class, where the professor mocked Kinkade for one class (it was an early Friday morning class, and the attendance of Friday classes was thin, so he wanted to have fun with the few of us who attended).

straight: It might be comforting to suppose a person would have to be brainwashed to like Kinkade's paintings, but I'm afraid that's not the case for quite a lot of people.

As others have mentioned, some buy the paintings because they like them, while other buy them for investments. But In 2009, Kincade's company was ordered to pay $2.1 million, $860,000 in damages to the former gallery owners, Karen Hazlewood and Jeff Spinello, and more than $1.2 million in attorneys' fees and arbitration expenses, for creating "a certain religious environment designed to instill a special relationship of trust," which led the couple to put a sizable chunk of money into starting a series of Kincade galleries.

shakespeherian: I would take Metafilter's disdain for Kinkade more seriously if it didn't sound just like Metafilter's disdain for Damien Hirst.

Except Damien Hirst sells single items for ridiculous amounts, and Kincade considers himself a brand, similar to Martha Stewart, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. It's not about art, it's a commercial empire.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:01 AM on March 6, 2012


They said something along the lines that he had a new style, where the images were less distinct, set in a pleasant sort of haze.

For some reason, this is what bugs me the most about Kinkade fans. They give him credit for inventing his dumbass "style" even though it's ripped off from 19th and early 20th-century "chocolate-box" art. Like the work of this guy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:07 AM on March 6, 2012


I just spent like 10 minutes trying to make Bowie's "Andy Warhol" about Kinkade.
posted by The Whelk at 10:11 AM on March 6, 2012


So I don't mind Thomas Kinkade that much. I come from a rural town in northern New England, so he pretty much just paints the landscapes I see every day. Except I usually don't see them until I slow down. But if you drive down my road in the winter time at around 5:30 PM, it looks like a Kinkade painting. So is my street a cliche? If so, I like it. And I like paintings that look like it.

...

Yikes. I actually clicked on the links in the FPP. The first one is just like I said, pretty reminiscent of everything about my life. The other two were shockingly ugly.
posted by jwhite1979 at 11:02 AM on March 6, 2012


My only real beef with Kinkade is that he's risen above his station. He'd be perfectly suitable as an assistant art director at Hallmark.
posted by Scoo at 11:23 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


From wikipedia: once relieving himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim while saying "This one’s for you, Walt."

Performance art FTW!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:44 AM on March 6, 2012



So I don't mind Thomas Kinkade that much. I come from a rural town in northern New England, so he pretty much just paints the landscapes I see every day. Except I usually don't see them until I slow down. But if you drive down my road in the winter time at around 5:30 PM, it looks like a Kinkade painting. So is my street a cliche? If so, I like it. And I like paintings that look like it.


I come from a rural town, too, and that's why I hate Kinkade so much. It's so fake.

He paints endless farm scenes that look like no farm I've ever seen. Where's the steaming heap of horse or cow shit, possibly smoldering a bit in the cold? Where's the broken cars with flowers growing through the bumpers? Where are the weird piles of trash that the farmer has been 'planning to fix' for twenty years? Where are the bad patches on the roof, the ugly briar clumps, the broken appliances on the porch or lurking by the barn, the giant mud holes where the tractor gets stuck? Where are the drunkenly-sprawling family tombstones next to a dying oak tree?

He takes all the bits that mean life and effort and erases them. I'd buy paintings like Kinkade's if he put the truth in them. It'd be an interesting commentary on the fetish of 'small-town America'.
posted by winna at 4:38 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know who else used uses the Jesus fish in his signature?
posted by sneebler at 5:06 PM on March 6, 2012


From wikipedia: once relieving himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim while saying "This one’s for you, Walt."

If I liked Kinkade's "artwork", this would be a plus, not a minus.
posted by orange swan at 6:17 PM on March 6, 2012


I don't care about his art one way or the other (eh, sure, it's shiny sparkly fairyland with no resemblance to real life, but I've seen worse), but my parents used to be collectors, so I got to see a good deal of it. Fortunately, the light seems to have worn off with my mom. But I remember being dragged to see him in person once and being severely unimpressed that he called his kids "cottages." Even in the 90's (and sober) he seemed creepy and my parents were all, "We don't like the paintings so much after that." Though that didn't stop 'em from buying a few more later anyway.

I am keeling over laughing at that Wikipedia entry, though. CODPIECE!

All his kids have the middle name Christian? Sheesh.

Back to the link, February is my favorite, what with the pointed out giant TM initials hidden in the work. Since the guy supposedly hides "N's" (for his wife) and other hidden whatnots I can't recall (his initials and the kids's names, something like that) all over the paintings anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:06 PM on March 6, 2012


Thomas Kinkade's 16 Guidelines for Making Stuff Suck
6) Hidden details whenever possible, References to my children (from youngest to oldest as follows): Evie, Winsor, Chandler and Merritt. References to my anniversary date, the number 52, the number 82, and the number 5282 (for fun, notice how many times this appears in my major published works). Hidden N's throughout -- preferably thirty N's, commemorating one N for each year since the events happened.
Okay I'm off to start searching. Who's with me?
posted by unliteral at 7:33 PM on March 6, 2012


No-one?
posted by unliteral at 7:33 PM on March 6, 2012


fearfulsymmetry: "I think I've only just noticed how bad Kinkade's perspective is... there's some angles so non-euclidean there I'm half expecting Yog-Sothoth to come bursting out."

INTERNET, PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN.
posted by schmod at 8:53 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I speak too soon. Of course somebody's already done this.

Good job, Internet.
posted by schmod at 9:00 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


@orange swan

ok cool its their culture not the people just their culture
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:13 AM on March 7, 2012


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