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“Hometown Memories I: Walking to Church on a Rain Sunday Evening.”
June 9, 2014 5:57 AM   Subscribe

In the weeks following Kinkade’s death , his estate tried to protect his brand: the gag order on his mistress and a statement attributing his death to natural causes were among the efforts they made to prevent the public from learning about the seedier side of Kinkade’s life. They didn’t work—but it didn’t matter. The Thomas Kinkade Release Calendar
posted by R. Mutt (148 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wait... Aladdin?

I guess he really was inspired by Warhol.
posted by Orb2069 at 6:30 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Very odd article; started off as a hit piece and then pulled its punches about a third of the way in. Almost reads like the author met and liked Patrick, the brother, so well he couldn't bring himself to give any more tawdry details about Thomas. Never says boo about what happened with the girlfriend.

I recall reading a much more cutting article about Kincaid somewhere around the time of his death, I feel like he wasn't lacking for material if he wanted to do a "here's what he was really like" sort of a thing. But neither does he give the Slate Contrarian take, the "actually, he was much deeper/better than you give him credit for, and whaddya they know about art anyway, hunh?" spin. Neither fish nor fowl.
posted by Diablevert at 6:30 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Ask any artist about Thomas Kinkade. Then step back.
posted by ergomatic at 6:34 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


Strip clubs, alcohol and estranged from his wife?

That doesn't deter an evangelical audience. That *is* an evangelical audience.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:35 AM on June 9 [65 favorites]


So Thomas Kincaid was the Don Draper of art?
posted by drezdn at 6:42 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


He got his first big break working for Ralph Backshi on Fire and Ice? Wasn't expecting that.
posted by octothorpe at 6:48 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Oh, Vincente Minnelli, where are you when we need you?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:49 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I honestly don't understand the utter hatred that artists have for Kindkad's work. It's pretty enough, and I think the technique of making the windows "glow" is kinda neat. It doesn't seem to be tied into his personal character, but seems (to me) to be more about that he's a success and they are not.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:52 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Ask any artist about Thomas Kinkade. Then step back.

Yeah, because art is about grossing out and disturbing people with how edgy and unique your vision is, and those who just like nice pictures of gardens and houses in the countryside can go to hell. If it's not depicting Micket Mouse exploding into sex-zombie fractals spraypainted on a derelict detroit factory, or a giant stick of butter made from fiberglass, or a "readymade" (usually some souvenir store kitsch a "big name" in the art world bought for a couple bucks and signed with a sharpie) it's not art, and you are bad for enjoying it.

Now, the seedy "collectibility" side of the Kinkade stuff I could do without - it was like the step-up drug for Beanie Babies addicts - but the art itself appeals to actual emotions and preferences of actual people. Fine art is all marketing gimmicks in this day and age. Kinkade just markets to people who aren't interested in the Art World as much as having something nice to look at on the wall. Most of the dislike not centered around the questionable sales tactics is usually scathing white-hot envy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:53 AM on June 9 [22 favorites]


> So Thomas Kincaid was the Don Draper of art?

Yeah, it's pretty unusual for artists to have drug dependencies. I can see why you'd have to look elsewhere for an anecdotal similarity.
posted by ardgedee at 6:54 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


ergomatic: “Ask any artist about Thomas Kinkade. Then step back.”

Slap*Happy: “Most of the dislike not centered around the questionable sales tactics is usually scathing white-hot envy.”

I don't know about "scathing white-hot envy." I feel like most artists in the world are perfectly aware that there is schlock in the world, and that people buy it. The more sane and balanced artists accept this, hopefully with a little grace. I've never talked to an artist who was angry about Thomas Kinkade; I've honestly never talked to an artist who had strong feelings about him at all.

As far as I can tell, hating on him is just a pastime of certain among us of a particular political persuasion who get the same kind of kick out of the details of his life that we do whenever we hear that a Republican was secretly gay. It doesn't speak well about us, but we're human, and humans like the smell of tawdry hypocrisy. Still, that's just lurid fascination, not anger.
posted by koeselitz at 7:00 AM on June 9 [12 favorites]


I've never heard of a capital A artist who actually hates Kinkade (Jerry Saltz, critic, in the OP aside). I feel that's like saying working designers hate precious memories.
posted by postcommunism at 7:02 AM on June 9


Most of the dislike not centered around the questionable sales tactics is usually scathing white-hot envy.

I'm not a Kincaid-hater myself, but I have to say, this seems a little too simplistic. It seems plausible--even likely--to me that many people (whether they're artists or not) who hate Kinkaid's work actually hate it because they actually hate it. There are lots of people who dislike overly-sentimentalized art for reasons having nothing to do with sales tactics or envy. Those same people probably hate most Disney features, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:03 AM on June 9 [11 favorites]


It's easy to find bad art. Anyplace where there are people with leisure and money, there will be kitsch. Three quarters of the paintings in Hawaiian galleries are whales or dolphins ornately executed for people with more money than taste. Kinkade is certainly not alone there.

What Kinkade did was to make himself a national brand, and then turn it into a manufacturing enterprise under the cover of art with a syrupy veneer of religiosity.

I get the impression from the article that the girlfriend has been paid handsomely not to talk.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:03 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


He doesn't really seem worth hating. He made paintings that are extremely schmaltzy and that reflect values that I don't share, but that's hardly a crime, and I'm not going to gloat at the manner of his death. Addiction is a disease that affects people of all religious and political persuasions.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:04 AM on June 9 [8 favorites]


From the article: “My brother was a good man,” he said, pausing as he choked up along with much of the mostly middle-aged and older audience. “The tragedy of my brother is he eventually fell to his own humanity. The triumph of my brother is that his art was never touched by that tragedy. His art was affirmation that there was hope, there was beauty, and a statement of love that wasn't touched by this."

The evangelical paradox of the morally righteous sinner is fascinating to me. Either way you can succeed: you walk the straight path of holiness (win), or your own fragile humanity succumbs to the overpowering temptations of the Modern Day Hedonistic Immoral Society That Has Turned Its Back on God (temporary loss, but it's not your fault and man what a redemption story it will make).
posted by AgentRocket at 7:05 AM on June 9 [21 favorites]


Am I allowed to hate on his paintings because they're ugly as sin? (I am not an artist).
posted by Optamystic at 7:05 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


His work was made in "a semi-industrial process in which low-level apprentices embellish a prefab base provided by Kinkade," so I think that makes him more like the James Patterson of art, if you have to have a metaphor.

His work brings to mind the trend when I was a kid when places like Sears started selling inexpensive and largely interchangeable paintings, right by the furniture section. It's literally art-as-furniture, because some people want to have pleasant looking things in their living space. That's hard to get upset over IMO.
posted by jbickers at 7:06 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


I honestly don't understand the utter hatred that artists have for Kindkad's work.

I think a lot of artists don't think of him at all. Of those that do, a lot of the dislike is probably founded on the very unremarkable product marketed as something sublime. You can call that envy if you will or something else, but it doesn't seem that surprising.

What fascinates me about Kinkade is how his images seem meant to function as icons. Less as pieces of "art" than as objects of devotion.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:07 AM on June 9


Wait... Aladdin?

Surprised to see that, too. Among other things, Kincaid was known for urinating on things, most famously (ctrl+f for "urin") a Winnie the Pooh figurine at a Disney hotel, proclaiming "This one's for you, Walt."
posted by msbrauer at 7:07 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


People who say, "Oh, you should only buy art that challenges you and makes you think,"usually really mean, "Buy MY art!"
posted by jfwlucy at 7:09 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


i wonder how he'll be assessed 400 years from now? today's shit is tomorrow's gold.
posted by bruce at 7:10 AM on June 9


“I like to portray a world without the fall,” he once said.

This sums up what bothers me about Kinkade, and makers of kitsch in general: his refusal to confront the darkness in the world or in himself. Which makes his popularity among evangelical Christians odd, given their emphasis on the sinfulness of man. But I suppose it's easier to point out sins in others than it is to recognize them in yourself.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to contemplate some real art.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:14 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Has Matt considered letting the US Secret Service fund Metafilter? Because this place is a masterclass in online sarcasm...
posted by Naberius at 7:15 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Wait... Aladdin?
There's a whole line of Kincaid Disney pieces, I see them all the time at the Art of Disney store. They are all pretty much like you would imagine them to be. I don't get the attraction, but I gather they must sell pretty well.
posted by Lokheed at 7:15 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


... very unremarkable product marketed as something sublime

This.
Kinkade was a one-trick pony, recycling the christmas cards of yesteryear.
posted by valetta at 7:16 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Growing up I remember constant late night commercials in the New York area for art sales that were held in third-rate hotel lobbies selling picturesque oil paintings at "Starving Artist Prices," and later reading an article about how these paintings, which have graced middle-class homes throughout the developed world for decades, were produced by assembly line workers in poor Asian countries (at the time, Korea as I recall). The images of these paintings would flash by in the ads -- landscapes, mostly, and thoroughly kitschy ones at that. (One phrase I remember from the ads was "couch sized," which I thought was brilliant as a genre category.)

It is the work of the consumate ironist both to turn the mass-produced kitschy vapor of romanticism's long tail into fabulously expensive and collectible name-branded "art," and to posture as a righteous man all the while drinking oneself to death in dissipation.

It's an extended autobiographical/aesthetic metaphor for the America he represents. That's his art. It's way bigger and more conceptual than any painting. The man was a fucking genius and like all great artists of his era, his influence is measured in dollars in a way that is aesthetically disruptive to the art establishment's established canons of evaluation and gatekeeping. I wish to god Bourdieu had written on Kinkade, sigh. Maybe Zizsek or Deleuze still will.

Alcoholism, on the other hand, is a hell of a disease and I feel sorry for his family not only for what they went through but for the predictable public pillorying of the man that will follow.

It's an addiction. It's not a moral failing.
posted by spitbull at 7:17 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


Or an inherent quality of the true artist, by the way. Kinkade's work evoked an era when addiction and genius were synonymous, perhaps he tried to live his aesthetic too deeply.
posted by spitbull at 7:19 AM on June 9


Kinkade had died of “acute ethanol and diazepam intoxication”—alcohol and Valium.

People should really not give benzo prescriptions to non-supervised alcoholics.
posted by thelonius at 7:20 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


I have talked with a number of art teachers and students who have told me emphatically that painting pictures of pretty flowers and landscapes is not art and those little old ladies who just paint flowers aren't doing real art.

I feel like, wtf who made you the owner of all art? Like, it depends on what your goal is with art. For some people art is an endeavor of the heart to bring light and joy and warmth in into the hearts and homes of the viewer. Who says all art needs to be filled with darkness and contrast or deep messages? Why is a message of wholesome love and health not deep?

I was turned off of getting more involved in art because of my experiences with people like this were were teaching art. I get that at the university level one should be given credit for mastering specific skills, however I feel like when the teachers claim they know what society needs in art better than the actual people who want the art in their homes do I think it kind of proves Kinkade's point.

What if people want healing calming images in their homes and lives, not a bunch of dark disturbing imagery, or have terrifying lessons of history or puzzling mysterious pieces glaring at them all day? What if that's actually a lot healthier for a lot of people?

The flower on a fence my great aunt painted is more meaningful art to me than things Dali did because it was made with love for her family and has lasted even longer than she to carry her love on. I love Dali's art too and think the world is enriched by it, but I don't think one is art and one isn't.... or that one is worse art than the other, they're two radically different types of art that I don't think need to be compared or rated against each other to each have their own meaning.

However from the perspective of what kinkade was doing I think the problem is he was mass producing this kind of sentimental art when I think these kinds of gifts are more meaningful when people make them for their own loved ones and the point isn't as much the quality of the art itself but the love and thought behind it. In my own family almost everyone painted for each other and family members would proudly display the blurry flowers and vague landscapes until artists with more skill dominated the market on this type of art with mass produced products surpassing home made pieces and probably discouraging a lot of people from taking up art as a past time to make gifts for their loved ones.
posted by xarnop at 7:21 AM on June 9 [20 favorites]


I think a lot of artists don't think of him at all.

I suspect that's true. The art world isn't my thing, but I was a jazz musician once upon a time, and the analogy that strikes me is to gigging musicians supposedly "hating" performers like Kenny G or Britney Spears. For the most part—Pat Metheny's ill-advised and quickly regretted rant aside—we don't "hate" them, indeed they don't even cross our minds. They are doing their thing, and there's pretty much zero overlap between (1) their thing and ours, and (2) their audience and ours. It would be like hating on Disney World for stealing away vacationers who "could have" stayed home and spent the week in our jazz club. It's fiction.

But then, jazz musicians also don't spend a lot of time even thinking about other jazz musicians. I always found that odd: as a group, we don't listen to each other's records. I have no idea whether that's true generally of painters.
posted by cribcage at 7:21 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


He really did a great job of selling his stuff. In another life, he would have been on the sidewalk collecting change in a hat, but in this universe he apparently said, "Fuck it. I'm going to become a rich motherfucker filling picture frames for people who collect Franklin Mint stuff and keep decorative soap and towels in their bathrooms."
posted by pracowity at 7:24 AM on June 9


from the article: “My brother was a good man,” he said, pausing as he choked up along with much of the mostly middle-aged and older audience. “The tragedy of my brother is he eventually fell to his own humanity. The triumph of my brother is that his art was never touched by that tragedy. His art was affirmation that there was hope, there was beauty, and a statement of love that wasn't touched by this."

AgentRocket: “The evangelical paradox of the morally righteous sinner is fascinating to me. Either way you can succeed: you walk the straight path of holiness (win), or your own fragile humanity succumbs to the overpowering temptations of the Modern Day Hedonistic Immoral Society That Has Turned Its Back on God (temporary loss, but it's not your fault and man what a redemption story it will make).”

As far as I can tell, you're reading a whole lot into Patrick's words that isn't there. He doesn't say Thomas Kinkade's fall was the fault of "Modern Day Hedonistic Immoral Society" or whatever. He doesn't blame society at all. He blames Thomas Kinkade's "humanity." Which has been a common way to talk about people's failings since long before evangelical Christianity stepped onto the scene. Honestly, I don't see any evidence that Patrick is an evangelical in this article.
posted by koeselitz at 7:26 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I have talked with a number of art teachers and students who have told me emphatically that painting pictures of pretty flowers and landscapes is not art and those little old ladies who just paint flowers aren't doing real art.

I have a fine art degree that included five semesters of art history, and I don't understand that attitude. There's no extra cred to be gained from actively hating on mainstream stuff.

As you said in your comment, most people want things in their home that make them feel good. My own art that I own falls into the same general realm of "nice paintings of pretty scenes", although to me, they have meaning because it's all stuff that I chose or was given from artist friends. Each piece has a memory or friendship associated with it.

For some people, it doesn't go that far, and that's ok. Sometimes people just want something pretty to hang behind the sofa.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:27 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


The best way to look at Kinkade is to realise that every overprice schmaltzy picture bought by his fundie audience meant that much less money they could spend on preachers of hate and intolerance.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:28 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]


I honestly don't understand the utter hatred that artists have for Kindkad's work.

To piggyback on cribcage's jazz post, I think it's kind of like this...

Random man: So, what do you do for a living?
Musician: I play jazz. Mostly in small clubs around town.
Random man: How cool! I love jazz! I have all of Kenny G's recordings!

It's really hard to do anything with that. Similarly, if you're a working artist, it's really difficult to talk "art" with anyone for whom Kinkade's work is their vision of great, masterful "art". There's just not much you can say without sounding condescending or insulting, once you get past "Yeah. He really knows how to get light into his scenes."

I suppose it's similar to how hard-core gamers view people who only play Candy Crush.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:31 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


I like how his prices have gone up since his death; I assume because the reputation of the dead is much easier to manage than that of a living person prone to unpredictable drunken shenanigans.

I once worked for a woman who was a decent boss but had the saddest personal life I had ever seen. She was in her early 40s, no relationships of any kind except at her church (and from her descriptions, those were unsatisfactory), no pets, and talked constantly of her dream of going to Russia to evangelize. I had to help her take some files home to her house once. She'd been living in a condo for 3 years but hadn't unpacked 90% of her stuff. She ate off paper plates or fast food; she slept on her mattress on the floor because she never put the bed frame together. It depressed the shit out of me.

And she fucking loved Kinkade. She had three of his calendars on her office wall, the mugs, some other whatsits, and gave Kinkade stuff to all her employees for gifts.

I didn't like his stuff before that, now it always makes me sad. That poor woman.
posted by emjaybee at 7:31 AM on June 9 [17 favorites]


The man was a fucking genius and like all great artists of his era, his influence is measured in dollars in a way that is aesthetically disruptive to the art establishment's established canons of evaluation and gatekeeping.

You Slate column awaits you, sir.

I think a debate over Kinkade's "genius" is fairly pointless, actually. His images were expressly produced for use—in this way they aren't unlike poster art—and it's probably more interesting and more instructive to think about how they function (or fail to function) for that use.

I do wish he had painted one of his strip clubs, tho.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:34 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]


I do wish he had painted one of his strip clubs, tho.

Oh, that's a lovely mental picture that will entertain me all day, thanks!
posted by JanetLand at 7:36 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


That dude was more interesting than I would have thought... I hadn't realized there was an actual IPO at some point.
posted by ph00dz at 7:37 AM on June 9


Dude has a vault full of unused paintings. Who knows what awaits?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:37 AM on June 9


This sums up what bothers me about Kinkade, and makers of kitsch in general: his refusal to confront the darkness in the world or in himself. Which makes his popularity among evangelical Christians odd, given their emphasis on the sinfulness of man.

I'm not sssssure this is the same thing, or that it quite works that way.

Yeah, the evangelical approach to humanity is that we're all sinful, but....it's not like they're nihilists about it or anything, where they are dressing in sackcloth and sitting around all emo about "we are an evil race oh woe". In my experience, it's quite the opposite - the "we are all sinful" attitude looks more like something that they just sort of pay lip service too, and they're more likely to get all saccharine-cutesy and put a happy face on everything. You know? The emphasis is more on God having saved them rather than them being sinful; "yeah, everyone in the world is sinful but God saved me, isn't that great?" (Sometimes "isn't that great" also comes across as "aren't I special", too.)

So that "refusal to confront the darkness in the world" seems very much like something many Evangelicals do - "why do I need to keep thinking about the sinful stuff? I've already asked Jesus into my heart and He saved me, so why do I need to keep thinking about that?"

Note I don't say all. Fred Phelps came from an Evangelical stream, and he was all up in sin and ugliness. But I've seen quite a few Evangelical Christians take this kind of approach, and....Kincaide's art, the Precious Moments figurines, and suchlike seem to all come from that place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


I see Kinkaide as part of a larger trend in American acquisition of "affordable" art. People have been buying prints for their walls throughout the 20th Century (and before) - In the first half of the 20th century, artists like Maxfield Parrish, R. Atkinson Fox, and William Thompson were very popular. Advents in technology both lifted their boats (made it easy to mass-produce prints of their paintings and illustrations) and beached it (the technological improvements in the 1950s favored photography over their techniques). Like Kinkaide, they painted for their audiences, diversifying their subject matter to reach different groups - from ethereal semi-clad young women in fantastic landscapes (often on swings) to buccolic scenes; from western vistas to cultivated gardens; from historical/biblical images to idealized scenes of families.

Publishing companies bought their illustrations/paintings and turned them into prints and vent covers and calendar illustrations and tea trays and advertisements and so on. Kinkaide is different in that he owned he publishing company, so he keeps more money and control, and takes a hit for being more upfront in seeing his art as both art and a marketing exercise.

It's hard for me to condemn anyone who chooses to buy art as art, no matter how saccharine or uninteresting I may find the art. I think art has the power to improve people's lives, even in the tiniest way, and Kinkaide can be a gateway drug to thinking about art and exploring more.
posted by julen at 7:40 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


I'll let Mr. Kinkade (autocorrects to kinks de?) speak for himself:

In more private moments, according to one former employee, he sometimes referred to his paintings as “a thirty-second vacation in a double-wide.”

That sums up what is problematic about him. It's fine if you churn out formulaic work that makes people happy and make you money, even if it isn't the best you are capable of (Stephen King, The Monkees, etc.). But he also had contempt for his audience, even as he pandered to them publicly. I have to wonder if the cognitive dissonance involved helped to fuel his demons.
posted by TedW at 7:40 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Put me down for a Kinkade painting of a strip club, too!
posted by TedW at 7:42 AM on June 9


xarnop: “I was turned off of getting more involved in art because of my experiences with people like this were were teaching art. I get that at the university level one should be given credit for mastering specific skills, however I feel like when the teachers claim they know what society needs in art better than the actual people who want the art in their homes do I think it kind of proves Kinkade's point.”

If an art teacher does not claim to know what society needs in its art, then that person is not an art teacher. Being an artist means having opinions about what is good for other people. Being a human means having opinions about what is good for other people. That isn't a sin.
posted by koeselitz at 7:44 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


If an art teacher does not claim to know what society needs in its art, then that person is not an art teacher.

What a ridiculous claim. Art teachers teach the techniques used in established forms of art. If you take a class from a person and come out with the skills needed to do art, for whatever that means to you, you took a class from an art teacher.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:47 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Oh, that's a lovely mental picture that will entertain me all day, thanks!

Little sparkles shimmering off the tassles, the homey glow of spotlights, the ... eh, I'll show myself out.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:49 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: puzzling mysterious pieces glaring at them all day
posted by Windopaene at 7:57 AM on June 9


> I like how his prices have gone up since his death; I assume because the reputation of the dead is much easier to manage than that of a living person prone to unpredictable drunken shenanigans.

No, it's the usual pattern of a popular artist's prices going up after their death. The pool of works is now determined and finite, while the promotion of those works can continue increasing demand.

The two interesting things about Kincaide is that he didn't sell his originals, only prints. And that his private collection was as large or larger than the publicly-known works. Prints have pretty close to zilch value in appreciation, relative to original works -- at best, a signed, numbered limited edition of known provenance will be a modest hedge. The mass-produced offset or giclee stuff that Kincaide's company churned out is only worth as much as its retail value to its first owner, no matter how extensively franchised "assistants" touched 'em up with trowels of titanium white and cadmium yellow. There are so many artist-signed prints circulating that they can't reasonably recover their four-and-five-digit original sales prices. That depends on a market that's sufficiently large and affluent and motivated to completionism, and... nah. That's just not going to happen in the long run, even if things look good for the decade or so after his death.
posted by ardgedee at 8:00 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I feel like, wtf who made you the owner of all art? Like, it depends on what your goal is with art. For some people art is an endeavor of the heart to bring light and joy and warmth in into the hearts and homes of the viewer. Who says all art needs to be filled with darkness and contrast or deep messages? Why is a message of wholesome love and health not deep?

It's deep if it's true. Kincaid's art was a lie, and he said so.

What counts as art? Whatever you want. That's kind of the point of Duchamp's readymades; the idea that the bare minimum necessary for something to count as art is not a particular level of skill or technique but just getting the viewer to look, to see and appreciate the aesthetics of an object in a new way. (They're also a joke, of course.)

But I think lots of people who love art do get fired up about the idea that art should be true...that whatever it's you're trying to communicate about the world with what you're making, whatever it is that you're trying to get the viewer to feel or think, there should be a core of truth to it, that you should be trying as hard as you can to get across that thing as well as you can, whatever it is. Because art has no point, except as an expression of the self.

The most revelatory anecdote in the piece is the bit about Spotty....Kincaid bowlderized his own life, he censored anything that didn't fit into his vision of Eden. If he's hated by art critics that's why; because he rejected the cult of authenticity.
posted by Diablevert at 8:01 AM on June 9 [10 favorites]


I think it's funny that this writer brings up the accusations of fraudulent business practices in just a few words. ("... A decline in sales, litigation over the failure of many of the independent galleries, and the bankruptcy of a subsidiary followed...) I have limited sympathy for people who get involved in this type of franchise but no problem believing that Kinkade's company deliberately exploited them.

In 2006, an arbitration panel ordered Kinkade's company, then called Media Arts Group, to pay $860,000 for defrauding the former owners of two failed Virginia galleries. The lawsuit, like those brought by other failed dealers, alleged that the company had used Kinkade's religious faith to draw them into the business, and then stuck them with unsalable merchandise and forced them to open stores in markets that couldn't sustain them.

There were a lot of news items about this stuff and the way it's glossed over here borders on disingenuous, to me. He's writing an apologia and I think he should account for this somehow, if only to say he doesn't believe it reflects badly on Kinkade.
posted by BibiRose at 8:02 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Art teachers teach the techniques used in established forms of art.

I'm not an artist, but even I know this badly misunderstands what art is. Art is only peripherally about technique. At the university level, art is about a combination of history, symbolic associations which allow you to imply things that aren't directly portrayed, and how to manage things like color, balance, composition, and presence to create the emotional reaction you want in a viewer. You can always pick up technique, so that the final canvas will look the way you intend. You don't need a university education, or really any education at all, for that. But things like layout contain subtleties which most people never figure out unless it is explained by them by someone who has the eye. These things are invisible when done correctly, which is why so many non-artists think art is just about knowing how to lay down oil paint.

Now in a sense you could say that Kinkade is an artist because his paintings do create a strong emotional impression in his target audience, and a lot of people would tell you that is what art fundamentally aims to do. The problem is that, if art was food, Kinkade's paintings would be a bowl of cheap candy. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with liking candy, but there is something wrong if it's the only thing you ever eat, and you don't recognize that there are other and better fares to be sampled.
posted by localroger at 8:04 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Making art is a job - David Byrne
posted by thelonius at 8:06 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


bruce: i wonder how he'll be assessed 400 years from now? today's shit is tomorrow's gold.

A strange thing to say of an artist whose work was franchised into a veritable goldmine during his lifetime.

It's as if you wondered if Ray Kroc will someday be revered as a great chef, because "many master cooks toil in obscurity during their lifetimes."
posted by IAmBroom at 8:08 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


LogicalDash: “What a ridiculous claim. Art teachers teach the techniques used in established forms of art. If you take a class from a person and come out with the skills needed to do art, for whatever that means to you, you took a class from an art teacher.”

Eh. Art is making stuff for other people. That's all. Making stuff for other people means knowing what they need.
posted by koeselitz at 8:09 AM on June 9


iambroom, i was referring to *critical* assessment, not *commercial* assessment.
posted by bruce at 8:15 AM on June 9


Yeah, because art is about grossing out and disturbing people with how edgy and unique your vision is, and those who just like nice pictures of gardens and houses in the countryside can go to hell. If it's not depicting Micket Mouse exploding into sex-zombie fractals spraypainted on a derelict detroit factory, or a giant stick of butter made from fiberglass, or a "readymade" (usually some souvenir store kitsch a "big name" in the art world bought for a couple bucks and signed with a sharpie) it's not art, and you are bad for enjoying it.

Obviously you're being completely sarcastic, but I agree 100% with that sentiment. Modern Art was one of humanity's great advancements. Art that doesn't challenge the recipient in some way to change and grow is worthless. Like any revolution, Modern Art is now kind of played out along the direction it went in, clearing room for more possibilities. Easy fluff that flatters without any further reflection is always out though.
posted by Schmucko at 8:19 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


oh, and the strip club painting? that's easy: mary magdalene on the threshhold of redemption and salvation; her pasties firmly affixed to their firm, perky foundations, her sad but knowing expression as she looks at the viewer from her barstool, and the slightest trace of a halo.
posted by bruce at 8:19 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


In one of the links on the Caravaggio thread the other day they theorized that the painter destroyed his brain function with toxic chemicals in his paint pigments. Do many painters assume that if the tube doesn't have a big skull and crossbones on it that the stuff is totally benign?
posted by bukvich at 8:20 AM on June 9


Any art teacher worth their salt teaches their students at least some art history, past and current, as well as technique.

For me making art is making what I need, and when other people like it, even when they don't buy it, the equation is complete - artist+art+audience. It's a conversation. If I started turning out what I think people want I'd die of shame, same as if I only ever said what I thought people wanted to hear.
posted by valetta at 8:20 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Art is making stuff for other people.

Sometimes, art is making stuff for yourself and discovering that it speaks to others too.
posted by Slothrup at 8:23 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


Art is a vast, expansive field which accommodates a myriad of motivations and purposes.

But if you intend to be a professional artist, you have to create for those who will buy what you make.
posted by ardgedee at 8:34 AM on June 9


i wonder how he'll be assessed 400 years from now?

Like this, I imagine?

Anyway, this part of the story
“He had six months of sobriety and he was doing all these wonderful things. He was calling me and telling me: ‘Feeling good! Losing weight! Doing great!’ And then suddenly, you get a message: ‘Thom’s had a beer.’ Two days later, he’s into vodka."
reminded me of another piece of art, similar in spirit: "Rob Ford, Mayor of Light."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:40 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


bukvich: yes. The dangers were not known in Caravaggio's time, so he can be excused from licking his fingers, but the dangers of cadmium, cobalt, mercury, and lead are well known and I still get people asking me for advice on which is the best oil paint for preschool fingerpainting. The answer is, of course, nontoxic acrylic. "But that wouldn't be authentic!!!" There is this idea of what An Authentic Art Painting is, which is responsible for a lot of people trying oils when this is expressly against their own interests. And Kinkade's marketing both plays into and perpetuates that.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:43 AM on June 9


I feel like health researchers and social theorists would have more to offer on what the general public needs in art, depending what the goal of the art is. To promote health and wellness I see art in homes as enrichment the same you would learn about animals in zoos and design a healthy environment for them and measure results of various techniques. If the goal is intellectual growth or social change, using empirical methods to deduce the impacts of various types of art on cognition, social behavior. and health in communities would be useful. An art teacher thinking the whole world needs to be jarred with complex art is not proof that will achieve any specific social good. Sometimes pondering painful and comes things just makes people more depressed. It's important to actually measure whether the things you think art should do is actually healthy, intellectually stimulating in a positive way or tthat it promotes the type if change you're wanting it to.
posted by xarnop at 8:44 AM on June 9


I think it's pretty telling that Kinkade is universally scorned while Bob Ross is practically sainted, despite the fact that their artistic output is remarkably similar in style. The reason for this, of course, is obvious: people hate a phony. Bob Ross painted trees and cabins because Bob Ross loved trees and mountains and squirrels and didn't give a shit what you thought about it. Kinkade painted whatever he thought would sell based on the assumption that everyone else was as shitty a human being as he was.

It's all great to be iconoclastic and defend the common person against the effete art world and it's snobbery, but in his own words, Kinkade had nothing but contempt for his customers (his paintings were a "thirty-second vacation from a double wide") so, in this case, count me with the effete snobs. Unless they hate Bob Ross, too, then in that case, screw them.
posted by artichoke_enthusiast at 8:44 AM on June 9 [45 favorites]


In one of the links on the Caravaggio thread the other day they theorized that the painter destroyed his brain function with toxic chemicals in his paint pigments. Do many painters assume that if the tube doesn't have a big skull and crossbones on it that the stuff is totally benign?

Caravaggio was alive in the 16th century, man. I don't think their labelling laws were quite as strict. He was also a hot-tempered drunk who got in a lot of fights, so his poor oil' cerebellum was getting it from all sides.
posted by Diablevert at 8:44 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


So that "refusal to confront the darkness in the world" seems very much like something many Evangelicals do - "why do I need to keep thinking about the sinful stuff? I've already asked Jesus into my heart and He saved me, so why do I need to keep thinking about that?"

True: many evangelicals have a rather superficial relationship to their faith, one guided more by emotion than understanding. Kinkade's art seems like an apotheosis of that dynamic.

But I think lots of people who love art do get fired up about the idea that art should be true...that whatever it's you're trying to communicate about the world with what you're making, whatever it is that you're trying to get the viewer to feel or think, there should be a core of truth to it, that you should be trying as hard as you can to get across that thing as well as you can, whatever it is. Because art has no point, except as an expression of the self.

I'm reminded of John Gardner's argument that fiction writers can exhibit not only faults of technique, but faults of soul: errors like sentimentality that arise out of a writer's flawed character, as he has not shown the type of respect and concern for his characters that any decent human being should. Kinkade's art does something similar, depicting things not as they are, or even as he perceives them, but as he would wish for them to be according to his ideology, which is much less interesting. Of course, Gardner was also a bully and a drunk, so take this analysis with a grain of salt.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:45 AM on June 9


Art that doesn't challenge the recipient in some way to change and grow is worthless.

I couldn't disagree with this more. Sometimes art can be about providing comfort and an escape when you need it, and that is incredibly valuable. I can name two movies off the top of my head where someone who's been in a depressive state sees something entertaining - Hannah And Her Sisters is one, and Sullivan's Travels is the other - and is instantly cheered up and realizes that the goofy fluff is just as important as Serious Art. Also, I first read Lord Of The Rings on September 13, 2001, and I didn't fall in love with it because I was Taking Great Lessons from it, I fell in love with it because it gave me a chance to get my brain the fuck out of New York City for a while at a time when I really needed to do so.

Art that provides comfort and escapism is tremendously valuable. Art that challenges you is also valuable, but it's not a zero-sum game.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]


his influence is measured in dollars in a way that is aesthetically disruptive to the art establishment's established canons of evaluation and gatekeeping

I can kinda sorta understand where you're coming from with the "disruptive to the establishment's established canons of evaluation and gatekeeping" (although, even then--where's the actual "disruption"? Christies doesn't auction off Kinkades; Gagosian doesn't feel forced to sell his work; he didn't get hung in the Whitney biennial--what you mean is not "disrupt" but, at most, "annoy"). But I don't get, at all, how it's "aesthetically" disruptive. Kinkade's total aesthetic effect on the art "establishment" is effectively nil. I mean, it's not as if cutesy chocolate-box art was something he invented. So even if a "serious" artist were to do a riff on something like Kinkade's aesthetic (and "serious" artists were playing around with commercial kitsch long before Kinkade was born) that wouldn't be any specific influence of Kinkade's--it would just be a general reference to the kind of kitschy chocolate-box artform at which he happened to excel.
posted by yoink at 8:47 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: exploding into sex-zombie fractals
posted by Foosnark at 8:54 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Most of the dislike not centered around the questionable sales tactics is usually scathing white-hot envy

Yes, that is exactly all there is to it! Just like when anyone criticizes Justin Bieber, they are just jealous!
posted by scody at 9:01 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Art teachers teach the techniques used in established forms of art. If you take a class from a person and come out with the skills needed to do art, for whatever that means to you, you took a class from an art teacher.

Hi. I went to art school - photography school, no less - where there was a heavy emphasis on technique. There was a lot to master to gain just a grasp of the fundamentals, and the technical corners of the field at the time were based in chemistry and starting to bring in digital.

All of my instructors were either established artists or big-market commercial photographers on sabbatical. They understood technique, and were very good at teaching it. As artists at the top of their game, they also had opinions on why in addition to how, and those lessons were valuable as art is a creative process, and you can learn to harness your creativity more effectively. This means you give intention the due it deserves, and let function take a back seat to form on occasion - sometimes you'd disagree with an instructor over the creative issues. This disagreement itself was often valuable.

Also, if you think the ability to blow smoke up the ass of a paying client isn't valuable, you don't know art, commercial or fine.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:02 AM on June 9


I think it's pretty telling that Kinkade is universally scorned while Bob Ross is practically sainted

You make a valid point, but it's worth adding that they exist(ed) in different spheres. Kinkade sold paintings for people's homes. Bob Ross was a television personality. Nobody accused him of selling snake oil because he was sincere, that's true...but also because he wasn't selling anything. He donated many of his TV paintings to PBS stations for fundraising.

Art is only peripherally about technique. At the university level...

I'm not a painter, but I graduated from one of the world's preeminent music schools and having that perspective I would be very surprised if a university-level art program didn't devote significant attention to technique. Another word for technique is craft, and without it your "art" is just an attempt. Sure, all that other stuff is crucial too, but you can't brush off (ha) technique as peripheral. It's fundamental.
posted by cribcage at 9:03 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


A happy little tree
## #### # #### #### ### \/#|### |/#### ##\/#/ \||/##/_/##/_# ### \/###|/ \/ # ### ##_\_#\_\## | #/###_/_## ## #### # \ #| / #### ##/# __#_--###` |{,###---###-~ \ }{ }}{ }}{ ejm {{} , -=-~{ .-^- _ `} {
If Kinkade's Hobbity pics give people a warm and fuzzy feeling that's to the good. Not all art needs to be Art.
posted by vapidave at 9:07 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Also, if you think the ability to blow smoke up the ass of a paying client isn't valuable, you don't know art, commercial or fine.

My dad's made his living as an artist his whole life, and he and my mom owned a gallery in Santa Fe for 15 years, so I absolutely agree with this statement 100%. But I'm not clear how that proves your contention that any criticism of Kinkade is based in envy.
posted by scody at 9:09 AM on June 9


> Kinkade had nothing but contempt for his customers (his paintings were a "thirty-second vacation from a double wide") so, in this case, count me with the effete snobs. Unless they hate Bob Ross, too, then in that case, screw them.

The quote about the double-wide is both cynical and insightful. The problem becomes that Kinkade*, or his promotions team, slathered the bullshit on pretty thick. That hypothetical family in the trailer home had to drop a month's mortgage on that Kincade, assuming they bought a preframed, low-end print. It's Lite Beer with unlimited mass-production economy of scale, but marketed as limited editions and sold at artisanal prices. They bought it because only because was it nice, but because they hoped it might help the value of the modest estate they're leaving for the kids.

Kinkaid knew his audience and he knew what would make them happy. His business operations did the rest on his behalf.

I don't think Bob Ross is sainted by many, for whatever it's worth. His public image was one of schlock and kitsch for a long time -- when I was in art school his name was a shorthand insult -- and it's only relatively recently that he's been redeemed as a spiritual forbear of the modern trend of home crafts and that whatever your skill level is, you should go ahead and do it and see if anybody at the crafts fair likes it.

*(Fuck it, after four comments in this thread I'm going to spell his name in every way possible.)
posted by ardgedee at 9:09 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


If the goal is intellectual growth or social change, using empirical methods to deduce the impacts of various types of art on cognition, social behavior. and health in communities would be useful.

In the socialist utopia of the future, all homes will be required to have paintings of dogs playing poker.
posted by happyroach at 9:11 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Also, if you think the ability to blow smoke up the ass of a paying client isn't valuable, you don't know art, commercial or fine.

I've often thought that modern art is basically Discordian -- a prank which gets people to change how they look at the world, and a con job convincing self-important people to pay good money for it. And that's kind of awesome.

Kinkade is Greyface art. He mastered the con, and cranked out a lot of art that appealed to a bunch of people he didn't respect. I bet he didn't actually respect his own art either.
posted by Foosnark at 9:13 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I honestly don't understand the utter hatred that artists have for Kindkad's work.

I can't remember where, but in a previous thread about Kinkade here in MeFi someone took him apart in a particularly devastating way. It's not--if memory serves--that his paintings are schlock, it's two things:

1) He pretends he invented chiaroscuro.

2) His paintings are objectively technically poorly executed; perspective is all wonky, that sort of thing.

In so many ways is Kinkade the epitome of America: art as product. A tale full of sound and fury etc.

Norman Rockwell did schlock, but he did it a) honestly, and b) with a technical excellence matched by no other. Kinkade could not have made the same claims when he was alive.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:14 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


In the socialist utopia of the future, all homes will be required to have paintings of dogs playing poker.

Wait...You mean there are actually homes that don't have that painting?
posted by Thorzdad at 9:14 AM on June 9


Also, if you think the ability to blow smoke up the ass of a paying client isn't valuable, you don't know art, commercial or fine.

Too true. I am living proof. One time, this couple were just on the point of buying one of my pictures, an abstract. And I had to open my big mouth and tell them my neighbour had jokingly suggested I call it "The Universal Anus". They drifted away.
posted by valetta at 9:15 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I think it's pretty telling that Kinkade is universally scorned while Bob Ross is practically sainted

Well, there's also the bit where Ross appears to have been a genuinely nice guy* while all indications are that Kinkade was a very devoted and capable (some might even say"gifted") asshole.

* and now someone will link to a tell-all expose of Bob Ross's drug-fueled cannibal orgies and his extensive history of running down children across the upper midwest and buying his way out of it with all that PBS money
posted by Naberius at 9:17 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


But I'm not clear how that proves your contention that any criticism of Kinkade is based in envy.

I was responding to the comment that art school only teaches technique - the two issues don't intersect in any terribly meaningful way.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:18 AM on June 9


Fuck it, after four comments in this thread I'm going to spell his name in every way possible.

FYI: Thomas Kinkade. Thomas Kinkaid. Reuben Kincaid.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:20 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Jamaica Kincaid.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:22 AM on June 9


I don't think that Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade had a lot in common, other than that they produced kind of schlocky stuff. Bob Ross encouraged people to make their own art, even if it wasn't ever going to be very good or original. I'm biased, because I'm a not-super-skilled-or-creative crafter, but I think there's merit in making stuff, even if you're not much of an artist. That's really different, I think, from selling schlocky art, which is still fine in my book but doesn't have the virtue of encouraging people to embrace their own creativity.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:26 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


fffm: I think you're referring to this?
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:35 AM on June 9


Comparing what a fine artist does to craft is a real good way to insult them.

You know what? Old ladies doing Donna Dewberry art at home really don't compare to artists who spend years working on their craft; constantly thinking about composition, color, abstraction, symbolism, texture, themes and the underlying ideas behind their work. A master chef would probably be insulted if you acted as if making box mac and cheese was as just as good as what they cooked.

Kinkade isn't unique but he's certainly a strong link in the chain of "art should be pretty and calming" as the major overall thought in the popular mindset.
posted by Ferreous at 9:36 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I don't care what people say, I still want this.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:36 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Yes, Cash4Lead, that's exactly the comment I was thinking about.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:38 AM on June 9


Norman Rockwell wasn't all schlock.
posted by theodolite at 9:48 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


I once worked for a woman who was a decent boss but had the saddest personal life I had ever seen. She was in her early 40s, no relationships of any kind except at her church (and from her descriptions, those were unsatisfactory), no pets, and talked constantly of her dream of going to Russia to evangelize. I had to help her take some files home to her house once. She'd been living in a condo for 3 years but hadn't unpacked 90% of her stuff. She ate off paper plates or fast food; she slept on her mattress on the floor because she never put the bed frame together. It depressed the shit out of me.

And she fucking loved Kinkade. She had three of his calendars on her office wall, the mugs, some other whatsits, and gave Kinkade stuff to all her employees for gifts.


This story captures the essence of Evangelical anti-environmentalism in my opinion: in order to make the promise of Heaven shine the brighter (and hasten the Second Coming) it becomes necessary to spurn all earthly delights and ruin the world for everyone.

I've seen only a handful of images of Kinkades, but those few have always seemed eerily deserted to me, lacking even footprints in the snow, for example, as if they are waiting for you to step through the frame into your own personal eternal Reward-- and so, for a convicted Christian, Kinkade's work functions subliminally to give the afterlife a viscerally appealing form far superior to the white robes and everlastingly brilliant arctic chill of the conventional picture.
posted by jamjam at 9:50 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


lagomorphius, that is...I don't know what that is. A trainwreck mashup of a product.
posted by emjaybee at 10:00 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


"In the socialist utopia of the future, all homes will be required to have paintings of dogs playing poker."

I have a print of a dogs playing polka, does that count?

I am having a friend that reworks factory paintings and adds things , he is doing a ATF raid on a Kinkade house for me.
posted by boilermonster at 10:03 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


God knows I dislike me some Kinkade, and his awfulness as a person is far more interesting to me than his paintings. That being said, Thomas Kinkade parodies are about the best things on earth.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:03 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I saw the stadium, how the track laid out, the horizon, the skyline of Indianapolis and the Pagoda. I saw it all in my imagination. I began thinking, 'I want to get this energy — what I call the excitement of the moment — into this painting.' As I began working on it, I thought, 'Well you have this big piece of asphalt, the huge spectator stands; I've got to do something to get some movement.' So I just started throwing flags into it. It gives it kind of a patriotic excitement. -T.K.

This is why I think people hate Kinkade. It's not just that it's pandering but that he's sort of weasely and dishonest about the pandering, and the hypocrisy of his lifestyle plays into that. He and you both know he's pandering, and yet he looks you in the eye and bobs and weaves about the insight and deliberation it took to put 600 flags in the official Nascar painting.
posted by anazgnos at 10:23 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


This thread about the late "Painter of Light" (and ain't that a hoary old tag) has been, um, enlightening. I never realised the extent to which Kinkade's output carried religious significance. I always assumed its appeal was more to do with an imaginary golden age.

And after puzzling over the many things a "double wide" could be I looked it up, so now I know.

This is the kind of thread I joined MeFi for. Lively cultural debate, lexical discoveries and of course, parodies.
posted by valetta at 10:30 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Doesn't seem that different than Jewish kitsch, though at least I don't expect accurate perspective in Chagall prints.
posted by Dreidl at 10:30 AM on June 9


I retract my earlier opinion. artichoke_enthusiast's got it right. Personally, if I had to make a choice between a world full of Kinkaids and a world full of Bob Rosses, I'd take the guileless peddler of "happy little accidents" over the cynical peddler of "thirty-second vacation[s] from a double wide" any day. But no hate to those whose tastes disagree. Kinkaid's brand of kitsch is at the very worst guilty of no more than the aesthetic crime of being harmless.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:32 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


There is no reason to hate or envy Kinkade. People like his products, and they have bought them and were satisfied. Nothing bad about that.

I think if you enter art at the university level, as a student, or a critic, an art dealer, a collector, or a professor, you also enter the ongoing conversation among artists. For that, you need to be knowledgable - you need to know history, techniques, contemporary art, criticism, and when you go there, your understanding of art changes in many ways.

For Kinkade it obviously led to him realizing he would never reach the level of his professed idol, Warhol, and he went into the snake-oil business.

But look at the Caravaggio cash4lead linked to. Or the Norman Rockwell theodolite linked to. There are so many levels in those pieces. And technical skill. Even if you hate abstract or conceptual work, it must be obvious that art has a far greater potential than Kinkade suggests.
posted by mumimor at 10:40 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


This is why I think people hate Kinkade. It's not just that it's pandering but that he's sort of weasely and dishonest about the pandering, and the hypocrisy of his lifestyle plays into that.

Before Kinkade's death, the only context in which I ever saw any discussion of his work in any "highbrow" (or even "middlebrow") venue was in regards to the frankly dishonest business model the guy developed. I mean, no one would have paid enough attention to his work to "hate" him if he hadn't been peddling marginally re-touched mass-market reproductions as "original" works of art that would be a valuable "investment" to poor suckers who didn't know any better.

I think it's certainly true that "art world" people have no interest in his kind of painting, for the most part, but it's not really true that they would find it particularly "enraging" that someone should paint such stuff and make a living at it--it simply wouldn't impinge on their world. What made Kinkade an object of active contempt was that his entire business model was a predatory scam.
posted by yoink at 10:40 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Kinkade: 85
Kincaid: 13
Kinkaide: 6
Kinkaid: 4
Kindkad: 1
posted by one_bean at 10:56 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


kink aid: 0
posted by yoink at 11:00 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Wrong thread, yoink.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:09 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


yoink's right; the Kinkade business was downright predatory in the early 2000s. Not just preying on the folks buying a nice home decoration for far too much money thinking it was "an art investment". Also the fraudulent gallery franchise business model that screwed several hopeful entrepreneurs out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kinkade's company declared bankruptcy in 2010 rather than pay the $2.8M due from a legal judgement.
posted by Nelson at 11:10 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Wrong thread, yoink

I wonder if there's someone who specializes in adding furrie art to Kinkade-like scenes?
posted by yoink at 11:15 AM on June 9


I have an undergrad degree in art, and there was a time in which I thought I would go into it professionally. I didn't. These 100 reasons why:

1-99. The Art World
100. Middling talent

I think that trying to make it as an Artist in the Art World would have sucked the joy out of it. I don't have the tough skin that Artists need to have to deal with people in the Art World. I'd rather stick to lowercase-a arts and crafts that involve painting turtles on furniture and making cool jewelry for my friends and family.

My mother falls into the Evangelical Christians Who Love Thomas Kinkade pigeonhole. I used to buy her a calendar for her desk every year. "That poor man," she said when she heard about his troubles. "Everyone is so terrible to him."
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:16 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


"So I just started throwing flags into it. It gives it kind of a patriotic excitement. -T.K.
How very Childe Hassam of you, Thom.

I don't think that Bob Ross and Thomas Kinkade had a lot in common

No. In fact, there can be only one ...

(I've gotten so many lols out of Kinkade parodies, that I almost think it justifies all his work. Without Kinkade, whither the parodies?)
posted by octobersurprise at 11:26 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


There is a perverse fascination in looking at his paintings. Just now I saw one with flaming windows in the front doors (wait, a cottage has two front doors?) but the windows on either side of the doors were dark! What disturbs me most however are the village scenes with a meandering brook flowing through the middle. Picturesque as hell, but those houses are on the same level as the water. No dikes, no levees! There's a raging cataract in the misty distance! A surge of water could flood the village at any minute!

So yes, there is a certain amount of sinister foreboding in his art. Certainly his fans should be receptive to a discussion about global warning.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:36 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


You Slate column awaits you, sir.

Please no. I was kidding!
posted by spitbull at 11:44 AM on June 9


His work brings to mind the trend when I was a kid when places like Sears started selling inexpensive and largely interchangeable paintings, right by the furniture section. It's literally art-as-furniture, because some people want to have pleasant looking things in their living space. That's hard to get upset over IMO.
posted by jbickers at 7:06 AM on June 9 [2 favorites +] [!]


Sears had its moments.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:44 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


bukvich: yes. The dangers were not known in Caravaggio's time, so he can be excused from licking his fingers, but the dangers of cadmium, cobalt, mercury, and lead are well known and I still get people asking me for advice on which is the best oil paint for preschool fingerpainting. The answer is, of course, nontoxic acrylic. "But that wouldn't be authentic!!!" There is this idea of what An Authentic Art Painting is, which is responsible for a lot of people trying oils when this is expressly against their own interests. And Kinkade's marketing both plays into and perpetuates that.

I always assumed oils use mostly non-toxic pigments now. Is that not true?

Anyway regardless of his crass commericalism and personal failings the main reason to dislike Thmoas Kinkade paintings is that most of them are unbelievably ugly. And believe me I'm trying to be as fair as I can without going to an Official Gallery - I just spent like ten minutes looking for the best ones online, which seem mostly to be earlier impressionist knockoffs he did under a pseudonym. The later commercial Kinkade has that garish jellybean-vomit approach to color which I just can't abide.
posted by atoxyl at 12:17 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


vapidave: If Kinkade's Hobbity pics give people a warm and fuzzy feeling that's to the good. Not all art needs to be Art.

Eponysterical!!

(Ok I'm being a little mean, but it was too good to pass up)
posted by Mooseli at 1:23 PM on June 9


I always assumed oils use mostly non-toxic pigments now. Is that not true?

It depends. High quality oil paints often contain traditional pigments, including cadmium, cobalt and lead. Check the label - you will sometimes see a warning about spraying or sanding.

Will Cadmium Always Be On The Palette?
posted by R. Mutt at 1:27 PM on June 9


I wonder if there's someone who specializes in adding furrie art to Kinkade-like scenes?

Not exactly what you asked for, but this guy comes pretty close and I guarantee you he would be willing to make a custom one for you.

In fact, anyone out there who got stuck with an overpriced Kinkade looking to recoup your investment, you could probably do worse than to let John Lytle Wilson correct the thing for you.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:27 PM on June 9


How is hating on Kinkade any different that hating on 'girly' drinks or musicals, furries or stick figure families? We've done a lot about other issues which traditionally have some people who outright scorn them, I guess it's time for Kinkade's art too?
posted by Carillon at 1:29 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Have you read the thread, Carillon?

Here's a few possible answers to your question, all of which are in this thread:

1) He had extremely poor technique as an 'artist'
2) A total asshole in his personal life in many ways
3) A scam artist who declared bankruptcy in order to evade a court judgement against him

... shall I go on?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:32 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


STOP OTHERING MY SHITTY TASTE!! -metafilter dot com in 2014
posted by basicchannel at 2:07 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


His paintings remind me of what passes for "HDR" in the photography world these days. People seem to eat that sh*t up too, including a lot of people who would look down their noses at a Kinkade painting. Sadly, HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography can be done well (read: photo-realistically) but the very name is now almost always associated with "overcooked", dialed-to-eleven processing as seen in the link above.
posted by spock at 2:27 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Not exactly what you asked for, but this guy comes pretty close and I guarantee you he would be willing to make a custom one for you.


That's actually pretty cool. Not saying I'd want one on my wall (there's no room with all the Dogs Playing Poker pictures), but I'd be significantly more likely to put up a John Lytle Wilson remix than the original Kinkade. Especially this one, or maybe this one, or maybe even this one!
posted by Kevin Street at 2:36 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but people are still talking about his art too fffm? Hence my point about his art and not him as a person? Certainly it's possible to dislike him as a person too.
posted by Carillon at 2:50 PM on June 9


I guess I think it's interesting that there's been a trend of threads about things that some might consider potentially shameful but there have been some really interesting responses and people who have made me reconsider my own views on things. I'm not saying Kinkade is a good person, but I certainly appreciated say EmpressCallipygos point to reconsider some knee-jerk snark I would have made about his art.
posted by Carillon at 2:54 PM on June 9


> a semi-industrial process in which low-level apprentices embellish a prefab base provided by Kinkade

Kinkade is certainly not the only successful artist in history to run that sort of workshop when demand for their work exceeded what they could produce by their own hand. Even auction galleries, never the most squeamish about their attributions, often feel compelled to say "from the workshop of [big-name painter]" instead of "by [big-name painter]". See Warhol, Andy.
posted by jfuller at 3:29 PM on June 9


See also Hirst, Damien.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:34 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


There is a perverse fascination in looking at his paintings. Just now I saw one with flaming windows in the front doors (wait, a cottage has two front doors?) but the windows on either side of the doors were dark! What disturbs me most however are the village scenes with a meandering brook flowing through the middle. Picturesque as hell, but those houses are on the same level as the water.

I like the cut of your jib. Personally, being trained in architecture (and thus somewhat haphazardly picking up some structural engineering on the way), studying his cottages is like staring into the void - they make absolutely no sense except as a framework for placing windows (and therefore LIGHT). Where are the floors actually located? How is a smoking chimney located right above a window? How is there another smoking chimney just 4 feet behind the first one? Who's paying to run a gas/electric line out to that lamppost when there's no road?
posted by LionIndex at 4:17 PM on June 9 [6 favorites]


jfuller: "Kinkade is certainly not the only successful artist in history to run that sort of workshop when demand for their work exceeded what they could produce by their own hand. Even auction galleries, never the most squeamish about their attributions, often feel compelled to say 'from the workshop of [big-name painter]" instead of "by [big-name painter]'. See Warhol, Andy."

feckless fecal fear mongering: "See also Hirst, Damien."

I totally agree that Kinkade was not the first of that type of artist, but Warhol and Hirst didn't really work that way, did they? Neither was faced with a situation where "demand for their work exceeded what they could produce by their own hand" - or rather, neither of them was interested in solving that as a technical problem. Both were perfectly happy with demand far outstripping supply; it's how they worked. Both were recent but have works that regularly sell in the millions precisely because they weren't in a rush to industrialize their process. They certainly didn't do everything by their own hands, but that was never because Andy Warhol or Damien Hirst wanted to sell as many pieces as possible. It was rather that they were interested in mechanical and industrial reproduction of their own ideas, in the first instance, and interested in making big things beyond their own technical capability, in the second. Maybe that's splitting hairs; I just think it's an interesting point.
posted by koeselitz at 4:40 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Who's paying to run a gas/electric line out to that lamppost when there's no road?

Oh, that's just where Jadis tossed the bar she tore off the lamppost in London.
posted by happyroach at 5:04 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


Hirst pretty much just pays interns to make those dot paintings, some of which he cheerfully admits do a much better job than he would. But he still pays them a flat wage and takes nearly all the money.
posted by localroger at 5:26 PM on June 9


Yeah, exactly – they do it better than him, like I said. Even more so with things like the shark. But he's not running a high-volume production facility designed to meet street demand by producing as many copies as the market will support. He's running a studio, producing a limited number of pieces, which are in general unique. Warhol himself pretty much followed this model, too.
posted by koeselitz at 5:31 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I have talked with a number of art teachers and students who have told me emphatically that painting pictures of pretty flowers and landscapes is not art and those little old ladies who just paint flowers aren't doing real art.

In re Brancusi v. United States, 54 Treas. Dec. 428 (Cust. Ct. 1928) the Supreme Court defined Art as the product of an Artist, which in turn was defined as someone who would be recognized as an artist by other artists, art instructors, art critics or art experts.

In re Arizona Board of Regents v. Wilson, 539 P.2d 943 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1975) the Arizona Circuit Court defined a who is an Artist. This case was exceptionally interesting, and relevant here. Wilson applied to an MFA program at the University of Arizona and was rejected. A lower court ruled the University should admit Wilson on the basis that

'[Wilson's] work seems already to be on professional level, but the committee feels that it does not appear to be particularly harmonious with the esthetic attitude within the Art Department.' The Court does not feel that this is sufficient reason for denial to the graduate college.

The Circuit Court, in its ruling, made a decision as to whether the U of A faculty could refuse to recognize Wilson as an artist eligible for admission to their MFA program.

Appellee would have one believe that her rejection by the faculty committee was not unlike the rejection by the Salon of French Academie Royale of Manet's 'Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe.' In other words, according to appellee's theory below, it was because she was different that she was rejected. Whereas Manet's painting was rejected because of his new revolutionary technique, Mrs. Wilson's problems seem to be the opposite. The testimony of Professor Wayne Enstice, a member of the faculty committee, is paraphrased as follows: Some amount of technical achievement was present but it was not used in any genuine original way in terms of form, composition or statement. Her paintings are cliches, formula written, of a pedestrian sort that one would find in a tourist situation. Her work was stagnant. Many of the same techniques and subject matter of appellee's painting can be seen in department stores and tourist establishments. The use of the words 'professional level' as applied to Rubye Wilson meant that she had her paintings in various exhibitions and had done greeting cards, however, there are degrees of professional artists and Rubye Wilson's paintings are of the tourist establishment variety. Her paintings were 'saccharin,' and lacked any kind of formal invention or originality. The other members of the committee who remembered her work, testified to having had substantially the same impressions of it as did Professor Enstice.

The University won and Wilson was rejected for admission because the art faculty did not recognize her as an artist.

So your art teachers and art student friends are right. Under US law, Kinkade is not an artist.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:43 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


If we're letting the law define who an artist is, I'm finding another country.
posted by ardgedee at 5:52 PM on June 9


That's nothing. They're also threatening to define who's a journalist, and if you're a blogger or passerby with a cameraphone it won't be you.
posted by localroger at 5:58 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


If we're letting the law define who an artist is, I'm finding another country.

No, you completely missed the point. Read the Arizona Regents v. Wilson ruling I linked to. They recognized the right of artists, art instructors, art critics and art experts to define who an artist is, and upheld their right to use subjective criterion in their decisions.

Although lawyers and the military may be fascinated by check lists, we do not believe that the lack of a check list or list of objective standards to be used by the members of the faculty committee renders their decision arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. As was stated by Professor Littler, the chairman of the faculty committee who has been involved with check lists in the past and found them of no help:

'To write them (standards) down as a list would be a distortion of our use of them, and also it would be a straight jacket for the action or any action had by the committee.'

He stated that the standards would not clarify the committee's thinking since, 'In a certain way the action of the committee is creative, a creative act. We go into the process of bringing as much of our own background and energy and understanding and perception as we possibly can. I think the other would be a poor substitute.'

posted by charlie don't surf at 6:12 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


No, you completely missed the point. Read the Arizona Regents v. Wilson ruling I linked to. They recognized the right of artists, art instructors, art critics and art experts to define who an artist is, and upheld their right to use subjective criterion in their decisions.
That's completely circular, though. If artists get to decide who's an artist, then you have to decide who's an artist before you can figure out who gets to decide who's an artist. You have to decide who's an art expert, an art critic and an art instructor. In practice, we all know how that will be decided: the most powerful people get to determine who's an artist, expert, critic, etc., and they'll tend to favor people who are like them.

I mean, of course university faculties should get to decide who is admitted to MFA programs. But that's not the same as saying that they get to decide who is and isn't an artist, and that's not something I'm willing to let a court decide for me.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:37 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


And I think that few MFA programs would say that the people they don't accept aren't artists. They would say, I think, that they were accepting the best artists or the artists with the most potential or the artists who were the best fit for their program. I really don't think that admissions committees think they're ruling on fundamental questions of what is and isn't art.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:47 PM on June 9


But he's not running a high-volume production facility

O RLY?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:13 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


That's completely circular, though... I mean, of course university faculties should get to decide who is admitted to MFA programs Medical School. But that's not the same as saying that they get to decide who is and isn't an artist a Doctor, and that's not something I'm willing to let a court decide for me.

While Artists are not required to be licensed in order to practice, there are certain segments of the profession that do use professional certification, such as the Master Printer apprenticeship and certification. In this regard, you may consider Artist an actual profession with real criterion for acceptance as an artist, albeit with subjective criterion established by other artists.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:18 PM on June 9


He gave us all the opportunity to feel aesthetically superior to millions of people, with almost no effort on our part. For that I offer my belated thanks.
posted by mecran01 at 7:28 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


It's pretty and twee, but it takes itself so seriously, that's what turns me off. I don't mind the twee, and I don't mind people who like twee, but he knows people thinks it's twee and he's like NO I MAKE ART AND IT IS SRS BZNESS and that makes it ... I don't know, bad in some way. Not bad when people hang it on their wall because they think it's pretty, but bad that Kinkade thought it was Really Good Art.

Tell Me No Lies: "Strip clubs, alcohol and estranged from his wife? That doesn't deter an evangelical audience. That *is* an evangelical audience."

When Sarah Palin was the nominee for VP:
In early September, when Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for Vice-President, announced that her unwed seventeen-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant, many liberals were shocked, not by the revelation but by the reaction to it. They expected the news to dismay the evangelical voters that John McCain was courting with his choice of Palin. Yet reports from the floor of the Republican Convention, in St. Paul, quoted dozens of delegates who seemed unfazed, or even buoyed, by the news. A delegate from Louisiana told CBS News, “Like so many other American families who are in the same situation, I think it’s great that she instilled in her daughter the values to have the child and not to sneak off someplace and have an abortion.” Palin’s family drama, delegates said, was similar to the experience of many socially conservative Christian families. As Marlys Popma, the head of evangelical outreach for the McCain campaign, told National Review, “There hasn’t been one evangelical family that hasn’t gone through some sort of situation.” In fact, it was Popma’s own “crisis pregnancy” that had brought her into the movement in the first place.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:51 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Kinkade is certainly not the only successful artist in history to run that sort of workshop when demand for their work exceeded what they could produce by their own hand. Even auction galleries, never the most squeamish about their attributions, often feel compelled to say "from the workshop of [big-name painter]" instead of "by [big-name painter]". See Warhol, Andy.

Oh, sigh--this nonsense again. What Kinkade did that was frankly predatory and fraudulent and utterly unlike anything ever done by Warhol or, for God's sake, Old Master artist studios was sell mechanically reproduced works of his (i.e. posters--produced like the Klimt, Monet and Hang In There Baby Kitten posters you might buy on Amazon or whatever) which would be lightly retouched in the Kinkade store. These worthless items would be sold to people who simply did not know better as valuable investments whose value would only increase with time.

When you went to Rubens to buy a wall sized, action-packed painting, he didn't pretend he'd do it for you all by hand and then secretly palm of the work of his studio assistants on you. The fact that he had a studio was entirely understood by his clients. Contracts would often specify, quite explicitly, which parts of the painting were to be by the hand of the master. That's not remotely the same thing as Kinkade suckering rubes out of their hard-earned cash. Similarly, there is absolutely no one who buys a Warhol or a Hirst who is unaware that the "factory-produced" quality of the work is part of the inherent nature of the piece, part of what the piece, in fact, is "about."

No one cares a damn that Kinkade used assistants or even that he sold lightly retouched mechanical reproductions. What--rightly--pisses people off is that he did so under false pretences and that he deliberately mislead people about the nature and value of what they were buying.
posted by yoink at 8:34 PM on June 9 [9 favorites]


I hope in several hundred years, a conservation student will clean one of his originals and find a giant beached whale hidden beneath.
posted by vespabelle at 9:39 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


while all indications are that Kinkade was a very devoted and capable (some might even say"gifted") asshole.

A while back, I was hanging out in a gallery in Carmel, and one of the employees was talking about Kincade. She said he started out really sweet and nice and humble... but at the end he was drunk driving on his motorcycle and well, acting like we've all heard about. And she said the girlfriend "was a total gold digger."

The one time I saw him was somewhere in the middle of those extremes. Sober and supposedly happily schmoopy with the wife (he had two kids or so at the time), but he did strike me as being pompous and full of himself. And he referred to his kids as cottages, as in "we're expecting another cottage." My parents were Kincade fans at the time, but they were kinda put off by him and kind of stopped being so into his stuff after that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:52 PM on June 9


I'm an artist, and I hate Kinkade's work. Not because of his business practices, or his personal life, or through some complex judgment of what is or isn't art, or because I am jealous. I hate those pictures because they are festeringly hideous blobs of nightmare that make my eyes want to bleed.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:43 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


me: “But he's not running a high-volume production facility”

feckless fecal fear mongering: *“O RLY?

Yep. Operative word being "high-volume." Let me know when there are hundreds of thousands of copies of any individual Hirst work available to the public to buy on a web site. Until then, he's not high-volume.
posted by koeselitz at 5:51 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I'm an artist. (Who decides who's an artist? I do.) The worst I can say about Kinkade is that I can't find anything there worth learning. I look at other people's work with one eye to appreciate and one eye to pillage. It's really very hard to find another artist whose stuff shows nothing I want to stea- I MEAN adapt to my own purposes.* Kinkade? Meh--top to bottom, front to back, side to side, meh. Even if you did want to become a "painter of light" there's better kitsch to swipe from.

* joke adapted from Tom Lehrer
posted by jfuller at 6:05 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


N.b. Francis Bacon's workshop consists exclusively of enslaved house elves previously broken in by lord voldemort.
posted by jfuller at 11:48 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


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