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Thomas Kinkade's 16 Guidelines for Making Stuff Suck
November 18, 2008 7:52 AM   Subscribe


 
Haha. Thomas Kinkade knows a thing or two about total art suck, that's for sure. He was the only person my college art appreciation teacher warned us to never buy a painting by. I've always agreed.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:56 AM on November 18, 2008


"17. Try to get that Yanni guy for the soundtrack. He's good."
posted by yhbc at 7:59 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Dodge corners or create darkening towards edge of image

Create an overall sense of soft edges, ...overall "gauzy" look preferable

Overall sense of stillness. Emphasize gentle camera moves, slow dissolves, and still camera shots.

Short focal length



This is exactly what passing out feels like.
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2008 [35 favorites]


Kinkade obviously grew up in a different type of household than I did, where we often heard "Don't you kids ever shut a light off?"
posted by Bitter soylent at 8:02 AM on November 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


the Artist Formally Known for Prints

Heh.
posted by echo target at 8:03 AM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


best thing about this post: first time i loaded the article, the style sheet broke so that it was unreadable.
posted by clavicle at 8:04 AM on November 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


...signature renderings of idyllic settings, which employ diffuse light sources, aggressive pastels, and a domineering religious worldview.

Admittedly, I have not spent a lot of time gazing at Kinkade painting's, but I've never noticed this.
posted by DU at 8:07 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


The concept of beauty. I get rid of the "ugly parts" in my paintings. It would be nice to utilize this concept as much as possible.

This is so genius, it's too bad he'll never have any idea why.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:11 AM on November 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


10) Short focal length. In general, I love a focal plane that favors the center of interest, and allows mid-distance and distant areas to remain blurry. Recommend "stopping down" to shorten focal lengths.

Hint: do not tell the cameraman what to do if you have no idea what a cameraman does.

(He means depth of field, not focal length. Stopping down will do the opposite of what he intends. Scare quotes are thoroughly unnecessary.)
posted by echo target at 8:12 AM on November 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


Dappled light patches.
posted by The Straightener at 8:12 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuck. Which one makes me hipper, sneering at the people who buy Kincade paintings or sneering at the snobs sputtering about how it isn't art, or certainly isn't good art, and how they can prove that the other group of people are wrong for liking it? I can't remember, and I really don't want to compromise my mefi coolness quotient by snarking in the wrong direction.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:13 AM on November 18, 2008 [17 favorites]


I haven't noticed any domineering religious worldview either, although I'd bet you 95% of the people who buy his paintings are Christians. And if anybody who posts here has ever bought a Thomas Kinkaide painting, they are not likely to admit it. A few people here might admit to liking Kenny G, Yanni or Mannheim Steamroller, but Thomas Kinkaide, no. Although you have to admit he has mastered the Painting of Alluring Coziness.
posted by kozad at 8:13 AM on November 18, 2008


You know, I could make something suck by applying just two or three of these guidelines. Take that Kinkade! Even at hackery you are second-rate.
posted by Mister_A at 8:14 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


After painting for nearly 40 years, I still wake up every morning daydreaming about new ways to make paintings.

Really? It's a shame he stuck with just the one, then.
posted by echo target at 8:15 AM on November 18, 2008 [26 favorites]


MetaFilter: Snarking in the wrong direction.
posted by knave at 8:16 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's suck. And then there's this.

If healthcare in America was better, old people wouldn't have do desperate things to pay for their prescription meds. Poor Peter O'Toole. :(
posted by miss lynnster at 8:16 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Peter O'Toole is like the worst Dumbledore ever.
posted by Mister_A at 8:19 AM on November 18, 2008


I've always somehow lumped Kinkade into the same category as the music group Mannheim Steamroller -- you see a couple things/hear a couple songs, and eh, they're pretty enough, so you seek out more. But it's a really short slide, and you get sick unto death of it all in a few months, and get rid of it quick, but then eveyrone else is nuts for it so then you end up sitting there wondering when they're all going to get over it like you have.

Incidentally this bit from the article tickled me in a plae I couldn't reach:

In 2006 [...] a Los Angeles Times article from the same year accused him of drunkenly disrupting a Siegfried and Roy show in Las Vegas by repeatedly yelling, “Codpiece!”

....I actually have seen the Siegfried & Roy Vegas show. Believe it or not, I completely understand why he was shouting "codpiece." (Roy's costume designer -- or Roy -- had a really bizarre thing for them.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


That was my first thought miss lynnster. Really Peter O'Toole? Really?

But then I remembered Peter Fonda in this craziness. So sad.
posted by annaramma at 8:26 AM on November 18, 2008


I sometimes wonder if Thomas Kinkade ever has a bad day

"Shit, nobody in the art world respects me. Well I'll show them..." *Proceeds to paint violently with pastels. When he's finished he stands huffing and wheezing in front of a canvas containing an idyllic winter scene.*
posted by CheshireCat at 8:28 AM on November 18, 2008 [18 favorites]


Imagine your choice for eternity in hell would either be listening to George Bush speeches over and over again, or live in a room covered completely with Thomas Kinkade work (and your eyes are pried open like they did in "Clockwork Orange"). Now choose.
posted by netbros at 8:28 AM on November 18, 2008


I don't mind his paintings anymore, they're cultural background noise like muzak and wrapping paper. But reading his guidelines, and hearing him in miss lynnster's link comparing his movie to It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th street makes me realize what a megalomaniac he is. He could be the Secretary of Getting Rid of Ugly Parts in a dystopian utopia.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:28 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Fuck. Which one makes me hipper, sneering at the people who buy Kincade paintings or sneering at the snobs sputtering about how it isn't art, or certainly isn't good art, and how they can prove that the other group of people are wrong for liking it? I can't remember, and I really don't want to compromise my mefi coolness quotient by snarking in the wrong direction.

Yeah, that was the wrong tact. But there has always got to be at least one person who won't bother defending the subject of criticism, but instead impugns the reasons for criticism, suggesting they are less about an artist's shallowness and mediocrity at his craft and more about some sort of blinkered hipster groupthink.

I suppose that makes you an even more daring freethinker. Bravo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:29 AM on November 18, 2008 [19 favorites]


Why does he keep namechecking 'Barry Lyndon'? Is it because it went on and on forever and had so little filmic contrast that at times it resembled the visual haze one gets when drunk? Is it because it's the only Kubrick movie that used serif fonts in the credits? Or because of the prominent décolletage?
posted by ardgedee at 8:29 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


CODPIECE!
posted by odinsdream at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Thomas Kinkade is pure distilled happiness. Why do you hate happiness?
posted by Nelson at 8:32 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


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.

What the...? Can somebody explain this to me? One N for each each year since (whispers dramatically) the events happened. The events? This bullet point is extremely creepy. 52? 82? And, of course... the events.

DUNNH dunnhh dunnnh!!!!!
posted by Justinian at 8:33 AM on November 18, 2008 [8 favorites]


Yeah, that was the wrong tact. But there has always got to be at least one person who won't bother defending the subject of criticism, but instead impugns the reasons for criticism, suggesting they are less about an artist's shallowness and mediocrity at his craft and more about some sort of blinkered hipster groupthink.

I suppose that makes you an even more daring freethinker. Bravo.


He made me laugh, watching mefi for years I can't disagree that to some extent it's true. Of course, your comment made me laugh too. For every snark there is yet, an even greater snark waiting to come forth. I love Metafilter so much. And that's fo' real. :-)
posted by IvoShandor at 8:33 AM on November 18, 2008


17. Try to get that Yanni guy for the soundtrack. He's good.

18. And if Yanni isn't available, there's always John Tesh.
posted by ericb at 8:35 AM on November 18, 2008


>....I actually have seen the Siegfried & Roy Vegas show. Believe it or not, I completely understand why he was shouting "codpiece." (Roy's costume designer -- or Roy -- had a really bizarre thing for them.)

My wife still has nightmares about taking a young relative to the Siegfried & Roy IMAX movie several years ago. Imagine those codpieces, only three stories tall.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:35 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


The town the movie takes place in is called Placerville! No doubt they shop at a cozy little convenience store called Buystuff, and in that store they purchase food items like Orange Drink and Meat Pie Brand Meat Pies.

It would be like a scene out of Repoman if it weren't so totally humorless and stale.
posted by shmegegge at 8:35 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


My mom has one of these cottage paintings hanging in her living room, lovingly embellished by one of Mr K's lackeys. I always thought he placed the stream too close to the cottage and imagined an "after the flood" version with light dappled mud and twisted branches.

He has a lovely NASCAR themed painting as well. He's branching out from cottages and idyllic light dappled scenes of serenity.
posted by freq at 8:38 AM on November 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Peter O'Toole must not have managed his money wisely. He's 76, one of the most respected actors in the business, and should be just enjoying himself, but he acts in TV movies and stuff like this. Then again, maybe they offered him a million bucks for an afternoon or two of standing stiff in front of cameras and he said, "Why the fuck not?"
posted by pracowity at 8:39 AM on November 18, 2008


> 18. And if Yanni isn't available, there's always John Tesh.

Just don't be hatin' on Zamfir.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:40 AM on November 18, 2008


How fucking dare anyone out there make fun of Thomas after all he's been through. Leave him alone. You're lucky he even painted for you bastards.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:40 AM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thomas is the Man!!! Ilove his art, but Jared to portrait him is just the icing on the cake. I can't wait to get my copy. THANKS!!!

Oh you wont be disapointed, the movie rocked and so did Jared... Of course.

i want to see this movie soooooooooo bad!!!!!!
i love his art work and i love jared!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow I'm such a fan! His humility astounds me.


I'd like to take this time to mention one of my favorite artists, Brandon Bird (whose website is painteroflight.com). Oh, how I long for the /img tag, but you'll just have to click through for The Darkness and the Light, Signifier and Signified (my favorite), No One Wants to Play SEGA With Harrison Ford, and Lazy Sunday Afternoon.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:42 AM on November 18, 2008 [34 favorites]


I wonder what sort of movie Bob Ross would have made, though, for a start, I figure it'd be exponentially better than how this movie sounds. And with happy little trees!

Oh, Peter. Are you that broke, doll?
posted by droplet at 8:42 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


He has a lovely NASCAR themed painting as well.

Oh please oh please let him do a Superbowl halftime show one.
posted by you just lost the game at 8:43 AM on November 18, 2008


Seriously, man, this guy is like light yeas beyond Bob Ross, one could go so far as to say he is the Frank Frazetta of the Yacht Rock set.
posted by The Straightener at 8:43 AM on November 18, 2008


"Aggressive pastels"? Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

Thomas Kinkade is like the new velvet paintings.
posted by giraffe at 8:46 AM on November 18, 2008


"The Christmas Cottage" [01:38] Trailer (check out Chris Elliott with a tacky wig at 0:36).

Extended Movie Clip [05:20].
posted by ericb at 8:47 AM on November 18, 2008


One N for each each year since (whispers dramatically) the events happened. The events? This bullet point is extremely creepy. 52? 82? And, of course... the events.

I'm guessing the Ns are year numbers. Like 52 is when he was born, 82 his first child is born, etc. So "the events" is "each event".
posted by DU at 8:48 AM on November 18, 2008


This gives me the huge urge to get out there and shoot some pics. I wonder how many I could nail in a single shot? It is tough work.

Really, this ought to be a contest or something.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:50 AM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Actually, the movie gets a lot better when Dean shows up and he and Sam totally blow away the Vampire O'Toole.

There is a variant where the 'away' is removed from the above synopsis. I recommend this version only to those who are really, really into 'dappling'.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:51 AM on November 18, 2008 [8 favorites]


The town the movie takes place in is called Placerville! No doubt they shop at a cozy little convenience store called Buystuff, and in that store they purchase food items like Orange Drink and Meat Pie Brand Meat Pies.

It would be like a scene out of Repoman if it weren't so totally humorless and stale.


And that would be a funny comment, if it weren't so totally off the mark.

Placerville, CA, is the hometown of Kinkade. They don't advertise it. They do still proudly refer to themselves as Hangtown. It the largest settlement among the gold camps, and that's where they went to get all their vigilante justice.

Also, it rhymes with "ass-er-ville," not "ace-er-ville." It's named for placer mining, of which there was a great deal.

I don't give a shit about Thomas Kinkade, by the way. I just really like the Sierra foothills.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:53 AM on November 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


Placerville is a great little town. I always wondered why there was a Thomas Kinkade gallery there.
posted by Nelson at 8:58 AM on November 18, 2008


In 2006, the Artist Formally Known for Prints was successfully sued by two former gallery franchise owners, and a Los Angeles Times article from the same year accused him of drunkenly disrupting a Siegfried and Roy show in Las Vegas by repeatedly yelling, “Codpiece!”

I thought for sure I'd switched tabs to The Onion's site.
posted by desjardins at 9:00 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


These sound like guidelines for an Obama infomercial.
posted by mattholomew at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2008


My favorite artist of "aggressive pastels."
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


Now that I know about all those hidden things in his paintings it makes me wonder if we are going to have a film titled, "The Kinkade Kode."

My Kinkade tidbit: knew someone who spent a fair chunk of their lottery winnings on buying original Kinkades as investments. Yep, Long term investments.
posted by jadepearl at 9:03 AM on November 18, 2008


My mom bought a couple of Kinkade things a while back.

"Oh, this is a Thomas Kinkade!"
"Who?"
"THOMAS KINKADE!"
"Never heard of him."
"He paints with light."
I examine the picture: "I think he used paint."

I place blame for the popularity of Kinkade squarely on QVC.
posted by lordrunningclam at 9:04 AM on November 18, 2008 [10 favorites]


My favorite artist of "aggressive pastels."

I take back my oxymoron statement. That's pretty danged cool.
posted by giraffe at 9:04 AM on November 18, 2008


Yessss, let your hate flow and complete your journey to the pretentious side!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:04 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


The banality of evil.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:05 AM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


51. Crash browser with evil popup ads.
posted by swift at 9:05 AM on November 18, 2008


Working artists like me, who need to get money for their art so that bills can be paid, look at Kinkaid with a conbination of envy and loathing that seeks an encompassing word to be the definitive antonym for schadenfreude. No, I don't like his work, but yes he's fucking rich and everyone knows his name.

The question he doesn't answer is "How much, exactly, soul do I need to sell to earn 1/10th, or even 1/100th of your income from my own work? And, can I get that in writing?"
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:07 AM on November 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


My girlfriend, Coco, worked for a Thomas Kinkade gallery for three months. She walked out one day and brought two lawsuits against them, the first for their refusing to pay her commission, the second for the father of the owner groping her.

She was fascinated by Kinkade, because she had to look at it for so long. When I would visit her in the gallery, she would point out how things wouldn't quite line up in his paintings -- trolleys, for instance, were painted in such a way that if you followed their course, they were about to fly off the tracks. Bridges were painted in such a manner that they should cross a river, but should simply plunge into it. There was all sorts of little cheats Kinkade did to make things look like they worked, but they existed in a world of physical impossibilities as puzzling as those of M.C. Escher. Me, I just couldn't figure out how, in daylight, his cottages were still capable of glowing from inside. When filmmakers want to create such an effect -- and it is always supernatural -- they must put huge, mega wattage arc lights into a structure, and must fireproof the structures because the lights throw off so much heat that there is real risk of things spontaneously combusting. But for Kinkade, in his unnatural world, a cozy fireplace can create as much light.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:07 AM on November 18, 2008 [28 favorites]




CBS | 60 Minutes: Morley Safer Interviews Thomas Kinkade.
"Candlelight Cottage, Twilight Cottage, Cottage by the Sea, Sweetheart Cottage, Foxglove Cottage, and Teacup Cottage...If you like six sugars in your coffee, these are the paintings for you."
posted by ericb at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2008



"Aggressive pastels?"


I wouldn't necessarily call them aggressive.
posted by thivaia at 9:15 AM on November 18, 2008


The fact that Chris Elliot is in this can only mean it is an elaborate hoax. I mean, c'mon - it's directed by the guy that did The Mack!
posted by jettloe at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2008


domineering religious worldview

Oh I've seen it. Glowing paintings of small-town churches, licensed bible covers, and multiple interpretations of that footprints parable.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2008


His website makes me weep - "Thomas Kinkade is America's most collected living artist." -- because his works are mass produced! And you can have your own gallery, just like the one in the mall. Worried about Starbucks-like super-saturation? Fret not!
Consumers are more than twice as attached to the Thomas Kinkade brand than to household names such as Martha Stewart, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren!*
*2005 study by Marketing Evaluations, Inc
I also had a college art history class where the professor spent a class deriding the Thomas Kinkade franchise, going through a whole set of images and shouting "Covered bridge - cliche! Cozy cottage - cliche! Picturesque lighthouse - cliche!" as he flipped through the slides. (It was an early Friday class, and the attendance wasn't too high - he wasn't using critical time to share his annoyance at the mass-produced cliche style of the man).

Some time after that class, I stayed with a nice Christian family for a weekend, and they had a few Kinkades in the house. They spoke lovingly of his style, and mentioned they saw something on his new work, where he painted in a vague style. I didn't ask if they knew of the impressionist art movement, for fear of breaking their moments of reverie. (I couldn't find his name for "impressionism" in a quick googling about, and it seems he as since embraced the term for his own work).

At least back in 2001ish, the man was a mess of contradictions. Didn't own a TV, but pushed his stuff on QVC. Talked of "reflects a slower pace in the midst of a frenzied world" with his work, while touring through 8 cities in a weekend with his wife and daughter. And then there's the added Christian references to draw in more "religious folk."

I can't bash someone for wanting a bit of serenity in their life, but holding this man up as something great is ignoring a lot of much better artwork. As a parting jab at the man, here's Thomas Kinkade's Experimental Period (courtesy of McSweeney's Internet Tendency).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder how many of Kincade's idyllic cottages are in foreclosure these days.
posted by stargell at 9:18 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


His brother, Ruben, was a bit of a swinger, though.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:20 AM on November 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


A little poem dedicated to IvoShandor, with apologies to Agustus de Morgan:

Great snarks have little snarks upon their backs to bite 'em
And little snarks have lesser snarks, and so ad infinitum.

I love this place too.
posted by Quietgal at 9:21 AM on November 18, 2008 [13 favorites]


Astro Zombie: To be fair, fine art painting has rarely been about photographic realism. Although the Daguerre process (free to anyone who isn't English!) allowed painters to stop pretending they could fix what the eye saw onto the canvas.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:23 AM on November 18, 2008


The lack of self-awareness is astonishing. Barry Lyndon is one of my favorite films, a long tradition I have of liking the Kubrick films no one else does and disliking the rest. Who did Kubrick go to get that "Barry Lyndon look?" Fucking NASA. No this is no Thomas Kincaid e-mailing Red ("Hey I am making a movie and want it to look like Barry Lyndon, what camera can you provide? Something economical, preferably refurbished ? Thanks!"). This was the real deal big person film making. "Two Special Lenses for "Barry Lyndon" by Ed DiGiulio (President, Cinema Products Corp.) From: American Cinematographer:
Kubrick scoured the world looking for exotic, ultra-fast lenses, because he knew he would be shooting extremely low light level scenes. It was his objective, incredible as it seemed at the time, to photograph candle-lit scenes in old English castles by only the light of the candles themselves! A former still photographer for Look magazine, Kubrick has become extremely knowledgeable with regard to lenses and, in fact, has taught himself every phase of the technical application of his filming equipment. He called one day to ask me if I thought I could fit a Zeiss lens he had procured, which had a focal length of 50mm and a maximum aperture of f/O.7. He sent me the dimensional specifications, and I reported that it was impossible to fit the lens to his BNC because of its large diameter and also because the rear element came within 4mm of the film plane. Stanley, being the meticulous craftsman that he is, would not take 'No" for an answer and persisted until I reluctantly agreed to take a hard look at the problem.

From the caption:The Zeiss 50mm and 36.5mm, f/0.7 lenses used to film candlelight sequences for "Barry Lyndon" without the addition of artificial light were originally still-camera lenses developed for use by NASA in the Apollo Moon-landing program, and modified by Cinema Products Corp. The 50mm lens, shown here in focusing mount, had to have the adjustable shutter blade, necessary for still photography, removed for filming.
posted by geoff. at 9:25 AM on November 18, 2008 [21 favorites]


droplet: "I wonder what sort of movie Bob Ross would have made, though, for a start, I figure it'd be exponentially better than how this movie sounds. And with happy little trees!"

And a whole heaping helping of self-aggrandization less...
Seriously, anyone who recommends the use of star filters (even sparingly) outside of 70s disco movies should be shot on the spot. And the whole formulaic, exaggerated, non-lifelike way he paints reminds me of Art Frahm and his rewriting of the laws of physics for the sake of his art.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 9:27 AM on November 18, 2008


My parents went through a Kincade phase, so I had to sit around the galleries a lot. Yawn. I don't have objections to his paintings, it's the marketing that annoys the shit outta me. Also, I had to go see the guy in person once. Wow, what a pompous narcissist. He calls the kids "cottages." Happily, seeing the guy in person seems to have turned my parents off a bit, and my mom seems to have grown out of it (last time she dragged me into a gallery, she made fun of them a bit after we left. Without buying anything).

Oh, that paragraph about "hide references to my kids, the N's, the numbers and crap?" Fine to pull in a painting, but in a movie? Really? For serious?

I wonder how broke-ass Marcia, Peter, and Jared were to have to put this on their IMDB's.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:27 AM on November 18, 2008


Though just coming in from a walk during which I watched a great sunset the contrast between the beauty of nature and the hideous faux 'beauty' of his work is shocking (Painter of Light? Painter of Shite, more like.) Though I have a nagging feeling that anyone who heckles Siegfried and Roy can't be all bad.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:27 AM on November 18, 2008


Astro Zombie: To be fair, fine art painting has rarely been about photographic realism. Although the Daguerre process (free to anyone who isn't English!) allowed painters to stop pretending they could fix what the eye saw onto the canvas.

In this instance, I won't credit aesthetics when instead I see laziness. Kinkade hasn't rejected naturalism for some preferable form. He just doesn't care if his bridges line up, or if his people are all painted at identical angles, or if his dogs are malformed. And he knows his purchasers, who Coco, after much experience with them, used to call "art patrons who are afraid of art," are too ignorant of the craft of art to know that he's skimped in these places.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:28 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno, the Matthew Barney 'Cremaster' store in my mall only lasted about a month.
posted by mattholomew at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2008 [18 favorites]


Sure, snark away, but when you need a quick gift for great Aunt Mildred, you're not reaching for the 2009 Jackson Pollock calendar.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:35 AM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wonder what sort of movie Bob Ross would have made, though, for a start, I figure it'd be exponentially better than how this movie sounds. And with happy little trees!

This is who I mistakenly thought of when I saw the fpp, and it made me sad in my happy little tree place.

(for those who don't know him, reading over the wikiquote page will give you a good sense of the man)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:35 AM on November 18, 2008


Thomas Kinkade is like the new velvet paintings.

Or "is to the middle-american evangelical as Nagel is to the misguided newly minted bachelor".
posted by docpops at 9:40 AM on November 18, 2008


I liked his stuff when I first saw it, then the more I saw, the less I liked. The funny thing is, I went to one of his galleries (I think in Salt Lake) and I saw a lot of stuff I really liked. Vibrant, impressionistic stuff of modern street scenes, for example. But, this is the stuff that sells.

I’m reminded of Warren Kimble. As I recall the story, he was a retired teacher and loved painting, especially abstracts. For fun, he would paint fat pigs and cows on old barn wood, and sell them at the local flea markets. An art publishing rep happened to see his work, and signed him to produce more of those fat pigs and roosters and cows. For a while, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing his stuff. It was in kitchens and dining rooms all over the country. He knew this stuff wasn’t really his “artistic statement” but it was in demand. He complained that even though his name had achieved a measure of fame, he still couldn’t sell an abstract. Of course, Kimble strikes me as much more humble and self-deprecating than Kincaide.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:44 AM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I never got Thomas Kinkade. All of his stuff looks like it should be sold at those big gift shops you sometimes find at midwestern truckstops. You know, right between the plasticine eagles and the wooden snowmen.

It's like he's terrified of the very concept of originality. And yet, I hear people pay real money for his stuff. I guess maybe he's just really good at doing what he does - delivering art without the slightest hint of the unexpected. I dunno, maybe old people find it comforting or something.

(shrug)
posted by Afroblanco at 9:48 AM on November 18, 2008


Although you have to admit he has mastered the Painting of Alluring Coziness.

I do not.

If you want to combine "alluring" and "cozy," there are certain of Alberto Vargas's works that corner that market. Corner, I tell you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:51 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really hope this sparks a Dogme-style movement - called K16, perhaps - that adheres rigourously to Mr. Kinkade's guidelines, regardless of genre/demands of the script/&c..
posted by jack_mo at 9:54 AM on November 18, 2008 [14 favorites]


His brother, Ruben, was a bit of a swinger, though.

Nice reference. You made me snort my soup, Flo.
posted by pixlboi at 9:54 AM on November 18, 2008


Sure, snark away, but when you need a quick gift for great Aunt Mildred, you're not reaching for the 2009 Jackson Pollock calendar.

We'll still have Precious Moments figurines....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on November 18, 2008


He had me at Graceland, but God bless him, he went further.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:02 AM on November 18, 2008


His brother, Ruben, was a bit of a swinger, though.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson


So was Chet Kincaid, but don't tell Greg and Marsha.

Hicky BURRRR!! Hicky BURR Hicky BURR!!
posted by Herodios at 10:03 AM on November 18, 2008


> ...when you need a quick gift for great Aunt Mildred, you're not reaching for the 2009 Jackson Pollock calendar.

Why not? Pollock died over fifty years ago; the work of him and other abstract expressionists are part of the vernacular and canon of everybody in the western world who's less than eighty years old. Paint spatters are as cutting-edge as a big band playing "Take the A Train".
posted by ardgedee at 10:17 AM on November 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


maybe they offered him a million bucks for an afternoon or two of standing stiff in front of cameras and he said, "Why the fuck not?"

posted by pracowity at 8:39 AM on November 18 [+] [!]


this video is some of the most bizarre shit I've seen all day
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:18 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that was the wrong tact. But there has always got to be at least one person who won't bother defending the subject of criticism, but instead impugns the reasons for criticism, suggesting they are less about an artist's shallowness and mediocrity at his craft and more about some sort of blinkered hipster groupthink.

I suppose that makes you an even more daring freethinker. Bravo.


Metafilter: For every snark, there is a meta-snark.
posted by straight at 10:20 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's like he's terrified of the very concept of originality. And yet, I hear people pay real money for his stuff.

I begrudge no one their preference for chintzy pop-culture art to hang on their walls or their hankering for Princess Di commemorative collector plates. It's the desire people have to spend "real money" on his stuff that weirds me out.
posted by deanc at 10:22 AM on November 18, 2008


in the last 16 years his company and its partners have reportedly made more than $4 billion

4 billion? For real. Good lord. That's a lot of heart-warming fantasy pastorals.
posted by jokeefe at 10:25 AM on November 18, 2008


He had me at Graceland...

*stares at 1f2frfbf's link*

...Okay, I'm actually strangely impressed now -- because it definitely takes a certain kind of talent to make freakin' Graceland look like a quaint little cozy cottage somewhere in The Shire.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:26 AM on November 18, 2008


Sure, snark away, but when you need a quick gift for great Aunt Mildred, you're not reaching for the 2009 Jackson Pollock calendar.

There's always Charles Wysocki. My mom loves him, probably because of the cats.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:28 AM on November 18, 2008


I guess maybe he's just really good at doing what he does - delivering art without the slightest hint of the unexpected. I dunno, maybe old people find it comforting or something.

I don't think so, Afroblanco.

Sure, I know a lot of things go downhill with age. But I've never heard it means suddenly developing shitty tastes in art too.

(Though if you liked Kincaid before, you''ll still like him in your dotage, I suppose.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:29 AM on November 18, 2008


See also. Thanks, Sky Mall.
posted by everichon at 10:30 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Before Kinkade had his own Galleries of Light, he sold his pictures in regular old hum-drum galleries like the one I worked in when his work first started becoming available.

I remember hanging it, and being vaguely impressed at the fact that the image seemed to change depending on how we lit it. "That's kind of neat" I seem to remember saying.

Over the next year, I watched more of his work come in, and I stopped being impressed, because like too many other artists from that time period (I'm looking at you Terry Redlin) he figured out a simple trick that people kind of liked and then proceeded to duplicate it over and over, and charge hundreds of dollars for "limited editions" that got runs larger than some posters. The work was completely devoid of any kind of passion or interest, and it eventually became a source of sad humor around the shop.

As to this movie, I have high hopes. I see that one of the leads is Jared Padalecki so I expect that at some point it will be revealed that the source of the "lights" is actually some kind of nightmare demonic spirit thing, and then Jensen Ackles will show up and the Winchester boys will burn that fucking house to the ground and salt the earth to make sure no more infernal apparitions never rise again.

In other words: the best Christmas story ever told.
posted by quin at 10:32 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Perhaps they should have shot the movie entirely on a piece of cheese. No other medium captures the essence of Kinkade quite as accurately, I fear.
posted by clevershark at 10:32 AM on November 18, 2008


His brother, Ruben, was a bit of a swinger, though.

Reuben Kinkade, painter of stuff.
posted by malocchio at 10:36 AM on November 18, 2008


I saw Jared Padalecki at a Supernatural con shut up and he basically said that he took the job because he got to work with Peter O'Toole. So, yeah. I love Supernatural, but I do not want to see J-Pad pissing on Winnie the Pooh.

Vintage cars (30's, 40's, 50's, 60's etc) can be featured along with 70's era cars.

I am so tempted to paint a man tossing a brightly lit cigarette out of a wood-paneled Pinto station wagon, setting the whole bright fuzzy landscape on fire. If I could paint.
posted by cereselle at 10:38 AM on November 18, 2008


Also, I prefer to avoid anything that is shiny.

what
posted by Pronoiac at 10:40 AM on November 18, 2008


I use this metaphor for a lot of things, but here goes:
Some art is like a finely prepared meal: delicious, satisfying, and good for you. If we're going with the "painter of light" theme, I vote Renoir as an example.
Some art is like a twinkie. Tasty to be sure, but of little merit otherwise, completely empty calories. Thomas Kinkade paints twinkies for the masses, and they eat them up.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:40 AM on November 18, 2008


Ralph Bakshi on Thomas Kinkade (from an interview w/ New York Magazine):
You mentored Ren and Stimpy's John Kricfalusi. But we can never forgive you for giving Thomas Kinkade his big break.

That son of a bitch! Kinkade was the coolest. If Kinkade wasn't a painter, he'd be one of those cult leaders. Kinkade came into my office with James Gurney when I was looking for background artists [for Fire and Ice]. He's a good painter, and he did a spiel. He made all these deals. How he went out and did what he did is beyond my understanding now. He's very, very talented, and he’s very, very much of a hustler. Those two things are in conflict. Is he talented? Oh yeah. Will he paint anything to make money? Oh yeah. Does he have any sort of moralistic view? No. He doesn't care about anything. He's as cheesy as they come.

posted by Atom Eyes at 10:48 AM on November 18, 2008 [8 favorites]


I like to think you can learn something from any piece of art, whether daring provocative innovative stuff or bad insipid Hallmark garbage. It stikes me that what Kinkaid is best at is presenting an image entirely free of irony. There's absolutely no detachment, observation, or commentary in his work. It's just what it is, unironically. I wouldn't mind learning to be more like that.
posted by Nelson at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oops, forgot the link.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2008


For those who haven't noticed the Christian thing in TK's work, some of the paintings actually have Jesus standing to one side of them, pointing at the pink-lighted windows of the various cottages. It's very weird; it's like he's some kind of supernatural real estate agent.
posted by OolooKitty at 10:58 AM on November 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


IN them.
posted by OolooKitty at 10:58 AM on November 18, 2008


Last weekend, I found a book about Norman Rockwell. There's something fascinating about him. I just couldn't stop looking at paintings like Shuffleton's barbershop. I'd like to hear what Rockwell would have said about Kinkade.
posted by Termite at 11:01 AM on November 18, 2008


I'm really disappointed that my Reuben Kinkade link isn't a lot better than it is. So much potential, just wasted.
posted by malocchio at 11:01 AM on November 18, 2008


It stikes me that what Kinkaid is best at is presenting an image entirely free of irony.

All I see when I look at a Kinkade painting is cynicism. I'll take irony any day.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:02 AM on November 18, 2008


See also. Thanks, Sky Mall.

When did Nikki Sixx become a painter?
posted by Snyder at 11:02 AM on November 18, 2008


JC/MAX. Outstanding Agents. Outstanding Results. Out standing in the Yard.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:03 AM on November 18, 2008 [8 favorites]


Some art is like a twinkie. Tasty to be sure, but of little merit otherwise, completely empty calories. Thomas Kinkade paints twinkies for the masses, and they eat them up.

....I'm sorry, I can't resist:

I paint your light-filled cottage! I paint it up!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


When the town I lived in back in Missouri started building a master planned Thomas Kinkade-themed "community," I knew it was time to get the hell out of there.
posted by zsazsa at 11:06 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]




Malocchio: Well, you could tap the collective unconscious (unconscience?) of Goons and get these:1, 2, 3.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 11:12 AM on November 18, 2008


Fess up. How many Kinkade haters bought Ico (or Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, or Halo 2, or...) because the bloom lighting effect looked so awesome?

(Given the ubiquity of the effect, there are obviously a lot of you out there.)
posted by straight at 11:13 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's absolutely no detachment, observation, or commentary in his work.

Agreed. So its existence is justified how?
posted by greenie2600 at 11:14 AM on November 18, 2008


zsazsa: Gah. Please tell me that's really happening in Jefferson City & that they're just using Columbia as a landmark.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:17 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Agreed. So its existence is justified how?

Well, justified by the money he's made. And the happiness he's given to the people who enjoy his paintings. Also, they're quite decorative and seem compatible with a variety of colour schemes.

Look, I hate the insipid garbage, too. But it's easy to just say "it's garbage" and move on. Given that we're having a discussion of the man's paintings (and movie), complete with a 16 point formula for how he makes them, I think it's interesting to look beyond the simple dismissal and try to figure out what's going on.
posted by Nelson at 11:19 AM on November 18, 2008


This movie -


is there now a vanity film industry?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:21 AM on November 18, 2008


He has a lovely NASCAR themed painting as well. He's branching out from cottages and idyllic light dappled scenes of serenity.

Awesome. I would love to see him do more stuff outside of his typical milieu. Like the Spanish Civil War.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:22 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think it's interesting to look beyond the simple dismissal and try to figure out what's going on.

He makes art for people who have wall space but are afraid of art. He's also managed to convince people that his work is "collectable," in the same way that people were once tricked into thinking Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids are collectable, so people with too much money and not enough sense think they are making a smart purchase when they buy his stuff. And because he weds his paintings to a Evangelical viewpoint, he manages to caprute a niche market. It's good marketing, but must never be mistaken for anything other than product.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:29 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Caprute" is "capture" in Astro Zombese.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:30 AM on November 18, 2008


Seriously, Rockwell kicks Kinkaide's ass, in terms of draftmanship and well, everything. You can slam the man for his wholesome subjects or sentimentality, but he was funny and talented, two things you can't say about TK.

As for the Christian angle, most TK stuff can be bought in a form (calendar, coffee cup, poster) that comes with some sort of semi-related Bible verse on the bottom, just like your standard "sunlight breaking through clouds" photo with Bible verse that Grandma had in her kitchen.

And fundies eat this up, because they need to know for sure that a piece of art is OK with the Big Guy. Most art is so suspect, so full of questioning, or uncomfortable conflicts, or some reference to Teh Sex, that your average fundie doesn't want to buy it and hang it up for fear they're supporting some sort of disreputable, atheist, druggy artist type. TK is about as staid as they come, and slaps Bible verses on things, yet is still "an artist." So, it's Art That God Won't Smite You For. A niche market, successfully exploited.
posted by emjaybee at 11:33 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


straight: "Fess up. How many Kinkade haters bought Ico (or Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, or Halo 2, or...) because the bloom lighting effect looked so awesome?"

I. HATE. BLOOM. That's an interesting parallel, actually:
Computer game graphics seem to have developed the same way Mr. Kinkade has: find something that works in a certain situation, that gives just that little extra edge that makes it look really good... and then use that formula for everything. And further refinement then consists of "more of the same, liberally applied with a gardening trowel".
posted by PontifexPrimus at 11:34 AM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


He has a lovely NASCAR themed painting as well. He's branching out from cottages and idyllic light dappled scenes of serenity.

Oh god, look at it.
posted by JHarris at 11:36 AM on November 18, 2008


What the...? Can somebody explain this to me? One N for each each year since (whispers dramatically) the events happened. The events? This bullet point is extremely creepy. 52? 82? And, of course... the events.

"Since the events occurred" means that the film is set in the 1970s, and it's been 30 years since the events depicted in the film occurred. The 82 is presumably for 1982 when he married his wife Nanette, with N being her initial, that would explain why it's "N" for each year. I'm not sure what the 52 is for but given his propensity for self-aggrandizement, I'd wager that it has something to do with the number of "awards" he's won, or recognitions or perhaps the number of millions of bucks he's got in the bank from his "paintings."

And now I need a shower just from looking at his picture on Wikipedia. He just looks slimy, somehow. Like an oily used car huckster. "Oh this? Great mileage, owned by a little old lady who only took it to the market and to church on Sundays. And the windows glow."
posted by Dreama at 11:37 AM on November 18, 2008


I have a theory that Thomas Kinkade resembles no other artist so much as Andy Warhol; that he is, in fact, Warhol's artistic heir.

I'm not being snide or sarcastic. Warhol was certainly talented and creative as a visual artist (though, like Kinkade, he could be lazy), but his genius was in raising marketing and self-promotion to an art form. Like Warhol, Kinkade paintings are primarily a brand available for purchase to an audience eager to associate itself with the image of that brand. The paintings themselves are mass-produced by underlings, with minimal contributions from their nominal creators; their subject matter is consistent and calculated.

I believe if he were here to witness Kinkade's success, Warhol would be the first and loudest to praise the Painter of Light(tm).
posted by nicepersonality at 11:38 AM on November 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


Andy Warhol often went out and bought the ugliest gold jewelry he could find. They he showed it to all his friends. If they asked if he planned to wear it, he shuddered in mock horror. He also like to buy bags and bags and bags of white underwear.

Warhol might have praised Kinkade, but it would have been in the spirit of camp.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:42 AM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]




He makes art for people who have wall space but are afraid of art.

What he does doesn't fail to impress because it isn't art; it's because he's a one trick pony.

Let's you see someone's painting of, I don't know, a pear, and think it's just a really outstanding job. I mean, it's rendered perfectly. You might think: hey, this guy's got talent. Then you ask: what else do you have? Huh? Sorry, all I do is pears. Check these out. The impression of talent is rather diminished.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:59 AM on November 18, 2008


Given that we're having a discussion of the man's paintings (and movie), complete with a 16 point formula for how he makes them, I think it's interesting to look beyond the simple dismissal and try to figure out what's going on.


Nelson,
That's a fair point but Kinkade himself invites swift if not "instant dismissal" because you can reduce his 16 point formula to ONE central idea. It's his own #13 rule from the VF piece.

"13) Mood is supreme...."

That's what's wrong (and right, if you like it) about everything he produces. That's it.

All his other formulaic points are about duplicating the discrete elements that must be present to ensure the "mood" (with the Christian stuff sometimes tacked on). Which - for me - pretty much violates the unique spirit of art. I've always seen an individual artist's vision as more complex than simply a "mood" - even if I don't like/understand that vision.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:01 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Warhol would be the first and loudest to praise the Painter of Light...

As he would Mark Kostabi:
"The New York artist Mark Kostabi has one team thinking up ideas and another team turning them into works (which he then signs). He even has a game show for panellists to title them. So where does he fit in?"
Warhol would also praise Yue Minjun who "...doesn't paint the artworks sold under his name. Instead, a bevy of assistants do the painting for him" and the commercial success of China's Assembly Line Art.
posted by ericb at 12:06 PM on November 18, 2008


That NASCAR one linked above - I. . . I . . . words fail me. I think it might be perfect. I can't understand why the world didn't just end at the minute of its completion.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:24 PM on November 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


"via Kottke"

That's a good start, right there.
posted by Eideteker at 12:26 PM on November 18, 2008


You know, I can never really get the wrath directed towards Kinkade. Is his stuff overly sugary? Yep. Is it fine art? Nope. But here's the thing; the people who buy it enjoy it. And you can't argue that it's displacing real art, the people who buy Kinkade would never buy real art, regardless of whether or not Kinkade was around. So, what we are left with is a rather mercenary fellow who creates unchallenging paintings. He may be at the same level as the velvet Elvis paintings, but I really can't see what causes people to be so worked up over him. He creates pretty things that some people enjoy. I can't see that as a bad thing, even if he isn't really an artist.
posted by unreason at 12:37 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wish to be known as the Painter of Death. Step one: learn to paint.
posted by owtytrof at 1:05 PM on November 18, 2008


You know, I can never really get the wrath directed towards Kinkade.

His people made my girlfriend cry. I might tolerate that from a Picasso, but from a Kinkade? Never!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on November 18, 2008


I know it's silly to compare Rockwell and Kinkade, but even thinking about it reminds me of this painting; a faceless soldier with ragged and torn clothing steading himself on a cooling gun? It may be sentimental, but it's also honest and powerful.

Two things I will never think of in reference to Kinkade's work.
posted by quin at 1:09 PM on November 18, 2008


But here's the thing; the people who buy it enjoy it.

But here's the thing, the people who buy hot, sticky nights fucking little boys and girls throughout southeast Asia enjoy it.

I really can't see what causes people to be so worked up over him

It's not really so hard to understand. People (here) dislike the sorts of unthinkingly traditionalist clods who buy these paintings and keep us from having nice things like same-sex marriage and health care, and their dislike spills over onto some things that those unthinkingly traditionalist people like. Also, if his paintings have any effect at all, it can only be to take someone who is already unthinkingly traditionalistic and make them even more so, so they're an even bigger speed bump on the road to progress.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:13 PM on November 18, 2008


So I was wondering what he was referring to by 'secrets' hidden in the painting. From the NASCAR painting website:

"HIDDEN SECRETS
There's more to NASCAR® THUNDER than you know! Faces in the crowd, special tributes and so many of your own suggestions are tucked away in this new release."


And here's one of the secrets to look for:
"Six Thunderbirds fly over the track with spectacular fireworks in the background."

Can someone PLEASE tell me where these are? I've been staring at the painting for a half hour already!
posted by yeti at 1:30 PM on November 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


That's the thing about Kinkade pics. If you do the magic eye thing, they're all bondage/S&M.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:37 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Six Thunderbirds fly over the track with spectacular fireworks in the background."

Oh, I thought those F-16s were attacking the grandstands. That's my second disappointment for the day.
posted by malocchio at 2:12 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


All his other formulaic points are about duplicating the discrete elements that must be present to ensure the "mood" (with the Christian stuff sometimes tacked on).

If mood supreme, then your work will never come across as anything but manipulative.

PICTURE OF A PUPPY! "Awwww."
PICTURE OF A MONSTER! "Aiiieee!"
SOUND OF A BELL! "That means if I pull the lever, I get a treat!"
posted by JHarris at 2:24 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I currently do a job where I show up each day, do basically the same thing, and earn a decent wage. If I was Kinkade I'd be showing up each day, doing basically the same thing, and earning gazillions of dollars. Frankly I wouldn't give a toss what the art-world thought, I'd be busy swimming in my money pool.
posted by markr at 3:14 PM on November 18, 2008


>I have a theory that Thomas Kinkade resembles no other artist so much as Andy Warhol; that he is, in fact, Warhol's artistic heir.

It's not hard to imagine Kinkade smugly surveying his empire, and murmuring, "Codpiece."

Of course, the 16 Point Plan for Thought-Numbing Mediocrity, what with the naive (?) references to his children and anniversary date and "third readings" (shhh!), might seem to militate against the pure Xtreme Pop reading...

but maybe these touches (and the memo itself, which is sure to be loved by his fans: "Look at the man's values! These are the things I would put in a painting!"; wait for the memo to start appearing at his galleries) are just the ninth layer of double-strength icing on his Cackling Cynicism Cake.

We'll only know one way or the other if there's some VH1 Behind the Franchise "Hookers and Blow" expose in a few years.
posted by darth_tedious at 3:39 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can someone make me a mural of that NASCAR picture? But maybe with a few more planes, blimps, fireworks, trucker hats, and racecars? Also, I'd like it to occupy a complete wall in my bedroom.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 3:54 PM on November 18, 2008


TPAA: It might be time for a taste intervention. Don't you worry about saccharine causing cancer?
posted by Pronoiac at 3:57 PM on November 18, 2008


That NASCAR painting looks like it should be a MAD Magazine fold-in. Are we sure it isn't one?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:04 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I totally agree with all the Kinkade hate here, though I must also say that the "highbrow" market can be as easily (and even more profitably) bamboozled as Kinkade's "real America" suckers.

Exhibit 1: Damien Hirst
Exhibit 2: Tracey Emin
Exhibit 3: Jeff Koons

And there's still a few others out there. I can somehow sympathise with the redneck who says: "So you think Kinkade is a hack? So, what's so artistic and tasteful about cows in formaldehyde and crucifixes in urine?"
posted by Skeptic at 4:11 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Why Does MeFi Hate Thomas Kinkade?

Several reasons:
1) He's commercial, makes too much money for an artist
Atom Eyes quoting Ralph Bakshi: "He's very, very talented, and he’s very, very much of a hustler."

2) He's too tactical, too repetitive and formulaic in his artwork in order to make money. It's too tame.
Afroblanco: "delivering art without the slightest hint of the unexpected"

3) Those who buy his stuff suck (and they buy it because of reason #2).
emjaybee: "TK is about as staid as they come, and slaps Bible verses on things, yet is still "an artist." So, it's Art That God Won't Smite You For."
ROU_xenophobe:" Also, if his paintings have any effect at all, it can only be to take someone who is already unthinkingly traditionalistic and make them even more so, so they're an even bigger speed bump on the road to progress."

4) It's not 'real art'. (For all of the reasons above combined)
Astro Zombie: "It's good marketing, but must never be mistaken for anything other than product."

--

I agree with unreason: "He creates pretty things that some people enjoy. I can't see that as a bad thing, even if he isn't really an artist."

And if ROU_Xenophobe says :"But here's the thing, the people who buy hot, sticky nights fucking little boys and girls throughout southeast Asia enjoy it."

That's a completely incorrect comparison to make. Unreason's example is a private, personal choice considering a product that harms no-one. ROU_Xenophobe's example is a fundamentally political and inter-personal one.

A better comparison would be "But here's the thing, the people who consensually fuck other people of the same gender also enjoy it". Or "But here's the thing, the people who masturbate with fantasies about stuffed animals also enjoy it." These examples would be accurate retorts in terms of methodology -- you'd be arguing that It's not okay to just enjoy it privately -- there's another value judgment to be made on top of that.

(Of course, knowing the general population of MeFi, most of us (including me and ROU_Xenophobe) probably don't have issue with either case. That's not the issue. The issue is not about the assertions that the counter-argument itself makes, but about bad methodology on the part of ROU_X's counter-argument.)

--

Astro Zombie says:
"Yeah, that was the wrong tact. But there has always got to be at least one person who won't bother defending the subject of criticism, but instead impugns the reasons for criticism, suggesting they are less about an artist's shallowness and mediocrity at his craft and more about some sort of blinkered hipster groupthink.

I suppose that makes you an even more daring freethinker. Bravo."


Normally I'd agree with you. But we're talking about art, here. And my argument on part of art is that art is always about "blinkered hipster groupthink". Or to put it more delicately, it is always about a communal standard of taste, about what-is or what-is-not-art. There's absolutely no rational or non-arbitrary foundation on determining what is art and what is not art. In essence, the definition of art is defined by, yes, "groupthink".

I can name a billion artists who conform to the marketing tactics of Thomas Kinkade and whose works are considered 'high art' - Yves Klein, Matisse/Pissaro/Degas/the rest of the (Neo)impressionists, Warhol yes, a bunch other contemporary artists. Commercial? Works by Degas and Matisse fetch prices way up in the tens of millions. The impressionists held their art, deemed 'kitschy' at the time (of course they weren't using that word then), on a show on a lawn like a fucking yard sale and sold it to middle-class bourgeoisie who were too tired of hard-to-understand, cryptic academic art and were pleased to look at pretty pictures of families sitting or train stations or landscapes or what not.* Repetitive? Let's talk about Josef Albers and Brice Marden. etc. etc. etc.

*Hey, I like the Impressionists, no offense against them.

It's like when people disdain Kenny G. A few years back this guy came out with a study that said, "Kenny G only uses a series of chord progressions in his work, and so is formally fairly simple", which was essentially a convenient way of trashing Kenny G -- that his structures are simple, not complex enough -- backed by an analytical examination. The study may be valid, the usage of it as a debate tool not so much.

So what really remains is the image itself. Does a painting by Kinkade look bad? And that's really up to you and yourself only. You may think it looks bad because it looks different than those who look good, or because it looks like other things you understand to be 'bad' or 'not art'. Maybe you're reminded of the covers of the Saturday Evening Post and understand that your "artsy" friends disdain Norman Rockwell and so you connect two and two and make four and conclude that Kinkade is bad. Okay, go for it, that's your choice; that's all of our choices. You have your own standard of taste that's your own and nobody else's.

But that's my point. My point is: (and of course this isn't aimed at you specifically, AZ, but in general) let's not at any point pretend that art is defined by some sort of universal criterion, that it is defined by anything other than an ultimately personal choice. If we're not aware of this, then what we end up trying to do is to draw these universally applicable lines or distinctions across which we think everyone should adhere to. Kinkade isn't art. Picasso is art. And that's really a bad way to look at things.

And if we're aware of this, then -- then I find that the sting of criticism loses its power, that I look at a work like Kinkade or Kenny G or whatever and realize that it's a pretty picture but I don't look down on it or anything. It's just an image. One person's trash, another one's treasure.
posted by suedehead at 4:31 PM on November 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


you need a NSFW warning on that last link, Skeptic. Yikes.
posted by desjardins at 4:32 PM on November 18, 2008


I blame the man for filling up my MyYahoo flickr photo thingie with endless tacky HDR photos and photos made to look like over-amped watercolors. Interestingness, my ass. I'm no longer checking those out, but I still can't get away from them online. And Andy Warhol? The blue dog guy gets closer to Andy at times. The dog gets annoying, but this, this is shit that's had a much wider and more toxic influence that, unfortunately, pushes its way into my world my often that I'd ever possibly like.

Andy's stuff is intentionally cheap and absurd, a "commentary" on branding while being an exercise in branding and all that. Meanwhile, I saw a work of "art" over the weekend that was nothing more than a washing machine with a bit of liquid detergent scattered over the top. What we call "art" is absolutely subjective. But Andy's work at least has a certain style and is sort of fun, is not so cluttered, etc., and doesn't invade my space all the time. The dishwasher sort of art? I only have my own dishwasher get up in my face and scream for attention. I'm sick of the poisonous Kinkaid influence.
posted by raysmj at 4:47 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, up until I started reading MeFi, I was completely unaware of this Kinkade guy's existence, so I really don't have strong feelings about him one way or another. But I also admit that i don't know shit about painting and, to be honest, don't really care to.

Norman Rockwell was cool though. He painted two cool cats.
posted by jonmc at 4:49 PM on November 18, 2008


Well, suedehead, I'd say:

1. His art isn't very good, and
2. He's making millions from it.

So, there's your bitterness right there. It's not necessarily "hipster groupthink"; it's that he gets away with sucking so horribly. I don't dislike the works because the rest of my Hipster Brethren say so; I dislike it because it's so poorly done and yet he gets to make a massive pile because he sucks in that particular way.

So, yeah, dismiss my opinion, why doncha.
posted by grubi at 4:50 PM on November 18, 2008


I'd like to take this time to mention one of my favorite artists, Brandon Bird

Brandon Bird is amazing. The perfect thing to balance out the pure unfiltered suck of Thomas Kinkade. The Dreamer and The Dream, a depiction of a satiated L. Ron Hubbard in captain's hat and short shorts lounging on the couch after chowing down on Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Funyuns, is one of my favorite images in any medium.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:28 PM on November 18, 2008


A few months ago, kaiserin saw in her Facebook feed that one of her college friends had just added Kinkade as a friend on the site. She's no fan of Kinkade's neo-fascist aesthetic, and made a funny comment on her friend's wall, thinking his interest in Kinkade was ironic.

Said comment was deleted, and the guy wrote a message to kaiserin saying that he met Kinkade at a recent party, and thinks he's amazing. kaiserin immediately replied, apologizing for her comment and saying that she would never have said it if she knew they were acquainted in real life. Her friend replied, saying that he mostly didn't want to offend Kinkade by having the comment up on his wall because he thinks it's funny that they're Facebook friends. He closed with, "I have some respect for him, and I do think he's amazing, but in the same way that I think the Cadillac Escalade is amazing."
posted by the_bone at 6:33 PM on November 18, 2008



His people made my girlfriend cry. I might tolerate that from a Picasso, but from a Kinkade? Never!


Oh Astro, your girlfriend cries about everything!

Normally I'd agree with you. But we're talking about art, here. And my argument on part of art is that art is always about "blinkered hipster groupthink". Or to put it more delicately, it is always about a communal standard of taste, about what-is or what-is-not-art. There's absolutely no rational or non-arbitrary foundation on determining what is art and what is not art. In essence, the definition of art is defined by, yes, "groupthink".
I can name a billion artists who conform to the marketing tactics of Thomas Kinkade and whose works are considered 'high art' - Yves Klein, Matisse/Pissaro/Degas/the rest of the (Neo)impressionists, Warhol yes, a bunch other contemporary artists. Commercial? Works by Degas and Matisse fetch prices way up in the tens of millions. The impressionists held their art, deemed 'kitschy' at the time (of course they weren't using that word then), on a show on a lawn like a fucking yard sale and sold it to middle-class bourgeoisie who were too tired of hard-to-understand, cryptic academic art and were pleased to look at pretty pictures of families sitting or train stations or landscapes or what not.* Repetitive? Let's talk about Josef Albers and Brice Marden. etc. etc. etc.
*Hey, I like the Impressionists, no offense against them.
It's like when people disdain Kenny G. A few years back this guy came out with a study that said, "Kenny G only uses a series of chord progressions in his work, and so is formally fairly simple", which was essentially a convenient way of trashing Kenny G -- that his structures are simple, not complex enough -- backed by an analytical examination. The study may be valid, the usage of it as a debate tool not so much.
So what really remains is the image itself. Does a painting by Kinkade look bad? And that's really up to you and yourself only. You may think it looks bad because it looks different than those who look good, or because it looks like other things you understand to be 'bad' or 'not art'. Maybe you're reminded of the covers of the Saturday Evening Post and understand that your "artsy" friends disdain Norman Rockwell and so you connect two and two and make four and conclude that Kinkade is bad. Okay, go for it, that's your choice; that's all of our choices. You have your own standard of taste that's your own and nobody else's.
But that's my point. My point is: (and of course this isn't aimed at you specifically, AZ, but in general) let's not at any point pretend that art is defined by some sort of universal criterion, that it is defined by anything other than an ultimately personal choice. If we're not aware of this, then what we end up trying to do is to draw these universally applicable lines or distinctions across which we think everyone should adhere to. Kinkade isn't art. Picasso is art. And that's really a bad way to look at things.
And if we're aware of this, then -- then I find that the sting of criticism loses its power, that I look at a work like Kinkade or Kenny G or whatever and realize that it's a pretty picture but I don't look down on it or anything. It's just an image. One person's trash, another one's treasure.


Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:41 PM on November 18, 2008


geoff. has it right above. The look of Barry Lyndon is one of the most storried and difficult endeavors in the history of cinematography. If Kubrick was an insufferable megalomaniac in regards to his actors and getting the perfect performances out of them at all costs, that was nothing compared to what he'd do with the cameras (he began his career as a photographer, and knew absolutely everything about them.)

There's a story (possibly apocryphal) of Garrett Brown, inventor of the Steadicam, sending test footage to Kubrick to garner interest in his new invention. Allegedly, Kubrick's response included detailed praise and constructive criticism about how to improve the invention - which Brown hadn't described, and which wasn't shown in the footage. Kubrick has figured it out based on the basic camera movements and the shadow cast in some of the shots.

And Barry Lyndon was his greatest masterpiece of cinematography.

Imagine Ashton Kutcher recording a vanity album, and giving notes to the studio engineers that it needs to sound like Loveless. And then imagine that the notes refer to tone and volume interchangeably, and talk about My Bloody Valentine's signature as "Wall of Sound." That's how fucking ridiculous this is.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:19 PM on November 18, 2008 [8 favorites]


It's not necessarily "hipster groupthink"; it's that he gets away with sucking so horribly. I don't dislike the works because the rest of my Hipster Brethren say so; I dislike it because it's so poorly done and yet he gets to make a massive pile because he sucks in that particular way.

TESTIFY.

I work in theater, and I will publically grumble about Broadway -- how there's nothing original on Broadway theater and the whole thing is trite and cliche and blah -- but honestly, it's actually the theatergoing public I'm angry at, the ones who don't consider coming to any of the real, honest challenging, groundbreaking, and different plays that are out there -- the ones that I and my friends are working on -- and so me and my friends are going broke while someone who won an AMERICAN IDOL type of talent show based on how well they could sing songs from GREASE is making a lot of money. And it's working that way because the people coming to see the shows actually want to see GREASE.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm not an art critic or a hipster, and I sure as hell don't subscribe to anybody's groupthink. My reaction to Kinkade's popularity is more akin to astonishment than anything else. I really do not understand why people pay lots of money for his work, give him awards, and consider him worthy of international acclaim. His stuff is suitable for the front of a greeting card, or MAYBE even the wall of a Denny's. The fact that people want to display it prominently in their homes is just laughable to me. I really, honestly don't understand what makes them tick.

Now, if he just had a niche following, that would be one thing. To each his own, blah blah blah blah blah. But the fact that SO MANY consider his work to have value just leaves me speechless. It's like seeing somebody fall for a cheap con at a carnival, and then watching them go back again and again and again. They do know that they're not getting real art, right?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:17 PM on November 18, 2008


16) Most important concept of all -- THE CONCEPT OF LOVE.

The secret ingredient is love? That's what makes my pies so good.

And my fucking lard.
posted by mazola at 9:30 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


mazola: And my fucking lard.

your lard? is there some Soylent Green pie-crust action going down, here?
posted by heeeraldo at 9:42 PM on November 18, 2008


He calls himself painter of light (as if he paints with light and other painters use some less ethereal method, squeezing paint out of tubes with that fart sound of an almost empty ketchup bottle), but the most striking thing about his paintings is his total lack of any feeling for light or colour. He hasn't got more knowledge of light and colour than an old lady taking a porcelain painting course. Kinkade isn't good enough to paint a bleeping Christmas card.
posted by Termite at 10:26 PM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


That NASCAR painting is like the problem with modern pop recordings, the massive compression over everything, so it's loud, but it's all loud, even the quiet parts are loud, all the same loudness, all through the music. His paintings are like sweet, sweet saccharine pop music with the compression cranked so all the details are screaming at you relentlessly, joyous choruses of a million Lawrence Welk singers dressed in satin, all screaming a C major into your ears in unison.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:33 PM on November 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Normally I'd agree with you. But we're talking about art, here. And my argument on part of art is that art is always about "blinkered hipster groupthink". Or to put it more delicately, it is always about a communal standard of taste, about what-is or what-is-not-art. There's absolutely no rational or non-arbitrary foundation on determining what is art and what is not art. In essence, the definition of art is defined by, yes, "groupthink".

Well, I won't say it's not art, because what is art? But there are objective standards for craft, and he falls short of them. There is such a thing as bad art, and arguing that it's all just an opinion doesn't put you above the argument, it just shows you don't know it. I mean, grammar is just a collective opinion about how to say stuff, but go ahead and write an ungrammatical sentence -- not out of some bold artistic statement, but because you are lazy, or incompetent, or have discovered you can make money selling bad grammar to people who are subliterate. It may be writing, but it won't be good writing.

My girlfriend does not cry at everything. However, she did watch Wall-E for the first time tonight since the crew party in San Francisco and nearly had a nervous breakdown.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:34 PM on November 18, 2008


grubi: 1. His art isn't very good, and

What makes you think so? Genuinely curious here.

Potomac Avenue: Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

Heh, yeah, absolutely man, that's my point.

Afroblanco: They do know that they're not getting real art, right?

What makes you think it's not real art?
posted by suedehead at 10:34 PM on November 18, 2008


But there are objective standards for craft, and he falls short of them.

What are these objective standards?

There is such a thing as bad art, and arguing that it's all just an opinion doesn't put you above the argument, it just shows you don't know it. I mean, grammar is just a collective opinion about how to say stuff, but go ahead and write an ungrammatical sentence -- not out of some bold artistic statement, but because you are lazy, or incompetent, or have discovered you can make money selling bad grammar to people who are subliterate. It may be writing, but it won't be good writing.

You say they exist, but then don't really define what either 'bad art' or 'good writing' is, so I'm not sure what your argument is as to both those are. As for grammar:

Yes and no. That ungrammatical sentence will be ungrammatical and it won't be good writing, but only to those who subscribe to our particular flavor of Standard Written English. If you don't subscribe to this flavor -- then our sentences very may well clash, you very well might interpret interpret my words as gibberish and therefore 'bad language'. This is nobody's fault.

Remember this question? The rough consensus was that condemning 'ebonics'/AAVE as a lesser language than SWE was a bad and altogether racist approach to language. But from the point of view of someone never really having heard AAVE, it would sound horribly convoluted and 'bad'. It's not that AAVE is ungrammatical internally, as fourcheesemac and others have pointed out -- AAVE would be 'bad' because it would sound 'ungrammatical' according to SWE.

My point is that if it's bad, it's only bad in relation to a criterion or a standard. In your example, the criterion is of grammar, or more specifically, of the grammar of Standard Written English. And my point is, sure, you can say "it won't be good writing", but if you do, you've always got to be cognizant that the real sentence is "it won't be good writing according to SWE grammar".

And if you think SWE grammar is a solid, rational, and unquestionable foundation against which to judge all other grammars as well as even other languages upon, then, well, I have no response. But I don't think you do. My point is the fact that we all look at languages and evaluate 'good' vs 'bad' from a certain criterion of grammar makes this all relative, and yes, "all opinion", as you summarize.
posted by suedehead at 11:00 PM on November 18, 2008


I don't know much about art but I know what I like.

And I wouldn't hang these in my rumpus room.
posted by mazola at 11:25 PM on November 18, 2008


Oh man. It's seriously bad art, why are we even debating this? If you want to get all relativist, fine, but we're just going to be defining what "art" is, and no one wins when we get to that point.

Let's just simply agree that it's bad art because it is objectively bad within the definition of two major defining schools/generations/themes of art:
* Classical realism (aka making shit look real): Perspective, lighting all off, no sense of flow (in terms of framing or sense of motion, art looks flat and confused)
* Impressionist/Modernist/Postmodernist (aka meaning, message, emotion and theme): I dare you to write a 15-page dissertation of any of his pieces, they're shallow and have no context beyond "shiny, spiritual". All his works are the exact same and show no development of themes, nor do they show any semblance of the overarching zeitgeist of the time, they're just poorly painted houses in the middle of nowhere. Great, there's shiny houses and that means that there's spirit in the home... now what? That's it, that's his entire career.

It's objectively bad art. If you disagree, I'd be interested to hear how one would define it as good in any way.
posted by amuseDetachment at 11:26 PM on November 18, 2008


I'd be interested to hear how one would define it as good in any way.

Lots and lots of people like it and enjoy looking at it.

Now, that's not how I define good and bad but there's certainly a serious argument that can be made based on that criteria. It's one of the few objective standards we can apply to a piece of art whatever the medium.
posted by Justinian at 11:32 PM on November 18, 2008


Interesting, it's hard to argue against enjoyment and I'm not saying that it's bad that people like this (nor am I arguing that they shouldn't be purchasing his stuff), I just think it's bad art.

Enjoyment of art can be an objective standard, however it doesn't answer why it's enjoyable (nor is enjoyment directly related to quality). I'm trying to answer how and why it's bad art. Correct me if I'm putting words in your mouth, but enjoyment is a specious argument because it's really an appeal towards positive emotion, and not only can art create a bunch of other emotions (fear/excitement/etc.), but he's crap at conveying emotion as well. He doesn't emotionally show the complexities of life or the peacefulness of traditional country living. It's all "oh there's life in the home and we're going to center around the home and make it super unrealistically bright" in all his shit. Seriously? That's the best and only way to show whatever the hell he's trying to convey? He's a one-trick pony hack and makes bad art.
posted by amuseDetachment at 12:08 AM on November 19, 2008


I've figured something out. Kinkade is to painting, as Andre Rieu is to classical music.

A certain group of people (hell, probably the same group of people) think he's the greatest classical musician of a generation, and they spend loads of money on his CDs, DVDs, concerts, pay-per-view concerts. They're so sure they're onto something special. My dad "suprised" my sister by buying her a trip to Melbourne with him to see Rieu recently. She didn't want to turn him down...she can't not go, but it's a bit of an embarrassment. Meanwhile, people who actually like classical music recognize him as the overpriced, overpaid hack he is, all glitz and glamour and not much else.

Someone above said Kinkade was art for people who are scared of art. Kinda. Kinkade is art for people who don't like art, who don't get art.

But I'm generous...it is art, as much as Damien Hirst is art, or as much as my toddler's finger-paintings are art, simply because someone out there appreciates it.

Quite simply, to me, all his paintings look like they belong on the front of Christmas cards. And not nice Christmas cards, either. The pack-of-20-for-$2 sort of Christmas cards. But, hey, some people like getting those cards and leaving them on their mantelpiece until April.
posted by Jimbob at 1:00 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


To play devil's advocate...

enjoyment is a specious argument because it's really an appeal towards positive emotion

That's okay. Some artists aim to create positive emotions. Some aim to create negative emotions. Some do both.

but he's crap at conveying emotion as well.

Well tell that to the people who love his work. Personally, his work makes me feel queasy and annoyed...quite strongly. So I'm affected by his work too on an emotional level, too.

That's the best and only way to show whatever the hell he's trying to convey?

I think he's just trying to convey "here's a pretty, idyllic cottage". That might not be of the same order as trying to produce a post-modern assessment of feminism through the medium of smearing faeces on a chihuahua corpse, but I guess he feels (and the people who buy his work feel) it's still a legitimate statement.
posted by Jimbob at 1:07 AM on November 19, 2008


So what really remains is the image itself. Does a painting by Kinkade look bad? And that's really up to you and yourself only.

Plenty of people create all sorts of products which I don't like but other people do. This doesn't bother me. However, doing this while coming up with a huge industry devoted to separating people from their money is disgusting. Marketing his mass-produced, cheaply-made products as works of art to be purchased and collected only serves to economically bilk people, and that offends me.

Say what you want about Kenny G, but a CD of his costs $15, and probably less on the second-hand market. He's not claiming that his CDs are anything other than what they are.
posted by deanc at 1:21 AM on November 19, 2008


Someone above said Kinkade was art for people who are scared of art. Kinda. Kinkade is art for people who don't like art, who don't get art.

Which is fine! We shouldn't criticize people who don't get art. I don't "get" art, either, in the way that many people do, but I don't try to pretend that I "get" art by spending lots of money on stuff that looks like art so that I can stake a claim to being part of the art-appreciating world.

I think that someone trying to give people who don't get art the economic experience of purchasing and collecting fine art without actually giving them any hope of, in the future, appreciating art is unethical, especially when the economic enterprise revolves around promoting yourself and yourself only.
posted by deanc at 1:29 AM on November 19, 2008


Fair enough...I was looking at it in terms of people purchasing a print because they think it looks pretty on their wall. I didn't think about it in terms of people buying this shit as an investment, people thinking they're art collectors. Of course, you could argue that a lot of people who invest in and collect real fine art don't really understand it either, beyond the potential future return on their investment. How many Picassos and Pollocks are hanging in safes?
posted by Jimbob at 1:49 AM on November 19, 2008


The guy makes bank painting crap.

First half is pretty indisputable, the second half could be argued. Could be. Without sinking into a long and no doubt turgid discussion of what is value in art, wherein does artistic merit reside? I would like to ask why if you have seen his work in 'the flesh,' and seen work by, say (for the sake of comparing like painting styles) Monet/Pissaro/Sisly/Cassatt would you take the trouble?

Just cause it's crap, don't mean it's not art. The secret is just because it's 'art' doesn't mean it is worthwhile.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:21 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just had a thought about the "but is it art" question. Or the "but is it good art" or "is it worthwhile" or "Why is it popular." I wonder if, since his marketing is so amped-up, if there isn't a bit of Emperor's-new-clothes going on here.

Because that happens too -- it's a different genre and a VERY different style, but there's a writer/producer here in NYC, Richard Foreman, who does very unusual and experimental theater, and all his works are always sold out and wildly popular. And for the longest time I had no idea why -- they were completely over-the-top bizarre, nonsensical, self-indulgent....things. I'm not even sure I'd call them plays. Then a few years back I was on the selection panel for a theater festival, and read a script someone had sent in -- it was an adaptation of works Richard Foreman had started writing and abandoned, so it was stuff even HE found incomprehsensible. And this script was similarly incomprehensible -- I couldn't make head nor tail of it. And I said so, and recommended they reject it. But the other two people who read it enthusiastically recommended it, and when I asked why, they simply said, "because it's Richard Foreman!" And that was it. No opinion about the quality of the work, no feeling about the production itself -- the NAME was involved, and that was it.

I have since asked people I know who like Richard Foreman why they like it. And while some do actually like it on its own merits, most people have just kind of hemmed and hawed and then started talking about Foreman's impact on theater, and not talked about the work he does at all. So my hunch is that there are more than a few people who like Foreman's work becuase they think they should -- they have heard he is important, and therefore they are his fans. And Foreman has a similarly enthusiastic marketing campaign here -- his works are presented with much fanfare, and he's kind of held up as a darling of indie and experimental work -- so the word about him gets out. And the people who secretly don't get it don't want to confess to it, because...well, if he's such an Important Artist, do they want to look like fools for not getting it?

I'm wondering if there's some of the same thing going on here. People who haven't had a chance to learn any different or find out on their own are being told Kinkade is a Fabulous Artist (tm), and they say "oh, okay, then I should like him." And they don't cop to not really admitting that it's not sending them into paroxysms of pleasure because...well, this is art, right? This has been given the official "Art" stamp by (Kinkade's) powers that be. And it's pretty enough, I guess, so...

I mean, I could be totally wrong with this theory, and I'm not saying it explains EVERYONE in the fanbase, but I wouldn't be surprised if a few people are like this.

NB: to any Richard Foreman fans on the blue -- you're not the fans I'm talking about, of course. You get his stuff. You're all cool.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:06 AM on November 19, 2008


suedehead: The comparison to linguistic dialects is interesting, I still think it's possible to have objective standards. The structure of rhetoric may change from context to context, but it's certainly possible to say that one expression makes better use of those structures than another expression, whether you are talking AAVE or SWE.

So for example, in music, you have a 12-bar blues that provides a structure. You can certainly evaluate how musicians have used that structure for their own ends: humor, tragedy, instrumental improvisation. One can say that Eric Clapton's homage to Robert Johnson was relatively uninspired in comparison to both Johson's originals and Clapton's earlier blues-influenced work, or how different artists have left their own stamp on the Stormy Monday Blues, one of those "standards" that almost everyone performs at least once.

Of course, the catch to this is that artists invent and create their own dialects, even entire languages at times. Usually the response to this is shock and dismay until that new language is understood: the Impressionists, Cubists, and Abstract Expressionists all had their "WTF" periods until people started seeing the new grammar that was created. But those grammars took hold and became critically important because they were robust enough to be useful in the arts.

Kinkade's work doesn't do much to expand the existing language in regards to light and color, and it's burdened by an overwhelming sentimentality that limits what you can say thematically.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:03 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ugh. No matter how bad something is, there will always be somebody to pop there head in and say, but it's all just a social construction, man.

Go ahead and think it's good art. Have fun with that. And I will think you have bad taste and are a flake to boot.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:45 AM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


their
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:46 AM on November 19, 2008


It's interesting that "it's all just a social construction" doesn't come up when we talk about operating a motor vehicle.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]



Ugh. No matter how bad something is, there will always be somebody to pop there head in and say, but it's all just a social construction, man.


Ever take a philosophy class? You've broken off into little groups cause the professor has a hangover and you're discussing something concrete like the Social Contract or Rights Of Man, and inevitably someone ...always a dude, drifts out of thier slumber and says "What if it's just all in our heads?"

Which is what these conversations always turn into.

(Sighs, goes back to reading Ruskin. Oh Rusky, I love your crazy-ass moralism.)
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on November 19, 2008


I have always firmly believed that everything good has already made and that everybody who creates something new is obviously cheating with time travel.
posted by tehloki at 9:26 AM on November 19, 2008


As I said above: I'm not a TK fan.

But, I am a serious photographer, and I'm interested in photography as art. Often, I am trying to "create art" according to own definition. Sometimes, I just want to make a pretty picture. The difference between the two is ultimately decided by the viewer, I guess. And I don't usually try to define for others.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:57 AM on November 19, 2008


Say what you want about Kenny G, but a CD of his costs $15, and probably less on the second-hand market.

You're saying that a poster of Kinkade's work costs more than $15? Or are you just engaging in some incredibly sloppy thinking to drive home a point you could have made with rational argument?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:59 AM on November 19, 2008


The capitalist approach to creating art is on a par with the communist approach-- you can assign your musicians to write an opera about the glories of the combine harvester or sign-up William Shatner to write science fiction and the end result will be something other than art. Art takes brains and heart and great art takes a passion to create that cannot be directed into a channel that pleases the most people. Thomas Kincaide may have had a glimmer of an idea, he may have had some ability to execute it but once he attempted to please as wide a base as possible he lost all connection to the essence of art.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:19 AM on November 19, 2008


suedehead makes the typical "artistic standards are relative and socially constructed" argument: So what really remains is the image itself. Does a painting by Kinkade look bad? And that's really up to you and yourself only. You may think it looks bad because it looks different than those who look good, or because it looks like other things you understand to be 'bad' or 'not art'. Maybe you're reminded of the covers of the Saturday Evening Post and understand that your "artsy" friends disdain Norman Rockwell and so you connect two and two and make four and conclude that Kinkade is bad. Okay, go for it, that's your choice; that's all of our choices. You have your own standard of taste that's your own and nobody else's.

I think you're largely right. The piece that's missing from your analysis is that if you listen to the way people talk about these issues, when they say things like, "this is art for people who are afraid of art" and "if his paintings have any effect at all, it can only be to take someone who is already unthinkingly traditionalistic and make them even more so," they are making moral arguments.

Many people believe that "real art" has a moral function, that it awakens our consciences, helps us empathize with, connect to, care about other people. That it helps us see the world the way it really is. That it shakes us out of the self-serving lies that allow us to hurt other people, to ignore suffering.

From this point of view, people who just want art that is pretty, enjoyable, pleasurable, are lazy and self-centered. They are choosing comfortable lies over a truth that might demand something from them.

This point of view would have to agree with you that Kinkade's paintings are not objectively bad in themselves (unless they are neo-Puritans who believe all pleasure is morally suspect), but they would say that it is possible to give reasons why it is not morally good for you in the way the "real art" should be, and so the exclusive consumption of Kinkade-like art is a moral evil.
posted by straight at 11:22 AM on November 19, 2008


That's not my argument. My argument is that his art is bad because it is lazy, poorly made, uninspired, and technically incompetent.

I never argue on matters of morality. Art is often outside morality. I do argue on matters of taste, and people who like shoddy things have bad taste.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:48 PM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sure, Astro Zombie, but surely you acknowledge that those criteria are not universally accepted. Others might say, "Who cares about whether art is inspired or technically competent? All I care about is if it's pretty. Kinkaid's art is pretty and the art you like is ugly and weird." And I'm pretty confident you can't decide between the two positions without something that sounds very much like a moral judgment.
posted by straight at 2:12 PM on November 19, 2008


Tacky is not a moral judgement. It's an aesthetic one.

And I don't care of the criteria are universally accepted. Just because some fools like bad art doesn't legitimize bad art. And we can go around all day arguing whether such a judgment is valid or not, and it won't matter, because at the end of the day people who buy gilded sculptures made of plaster of paris, or pre-framed faux Victorian advertising lithographs, or Thomas Kinkade scuptures, are still demonstrating abominable taste. I might find forgiveness for that if they were doing so out of a sense of irony or camp, or if they could make some aesthetic argument defending it. Which I notice the people who are vaguely standing up for Thomas Kinkade aren't really doing here, except using a non-argument that somehow, because art is socially defined, we shouldn't be so damned hard on Kinkade and his fans for not sharing our social definition.

But they do. They absolutely do. They're not buying Kinkade because he's some brut artist working from a madhouse and creating art that defies our limited understand of what art is. They are buying Kinkade because they think he's doing good art, as is generally definined by society, and because they are too ignorant to know that, no, that's not what he's making at all. What he's making is a bland pastiche of pastoral themes, borrowing loosely from both classical composition and the expressionists' obsession with light (without caring that the expressionists were trying to represent light as it actually exists, not forcing it to be some glowy, gushy, impossible thing that just burns on the canvas, without source or logic). He's selling crap to the ignorant, and your only defense is that they find it pretty?

Fine. Fools think crap is pretty. I'm not going to go into their homes and slap the Kinkade of their walls. But I don't have to respect their ignorance, or their tastelessness, or their capacity to be taken in by a con artist, and I don't have to capitulate that maybe, just maybe, it's all just a big socially generated illustion, and maybe if we abandoned our uptight, socially mandated artistic morality we could see it's worth a damn.

It's not. It's garbage.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:02 PM on November 19, 2008


True story. When I tell people that my ex left me for a man, they say AWWWWW!

...when I'm with a knitting audience, I add: "who's a quilter" (more groans)
...when I'm with anyone artistics, I add: "...who collects Thomas Kinkade figurines."

This usually results in everyone's head asploding.

That said, my mother (a real painter) and aunt (ditto) hatched a scheme a few years ago to make t-shirt with the famous Albrecht Dürer "praying hands" motif on them that say: "Bring me the hands of Thomas Kinkade."

I am heartbroken she never followed through with it. Then again, when you ACTUALLY PAINT YOUR OWN PAINTINGS and don't just "highlight" giclee prints, well... it takes up time.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:23 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


'artistic,' that is...not 'artistics'... sigh.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:25 PM on November 19, 2008


I might find forgiveness for that if they were doing so out of a sense of irony or camp,

So you hate Kinkade and all his fans, but you believe it's totally cool to pretend to like something as an ironic statement?

Someone's sure gulped down the Kool-Aid.

What's worse...liking a painting even when the establishment tells you it's not cool to, or pretending to like a painting because the establishment tells you that you should?
posted by Jimbob at 3:53 PM on November 19, 2008


Camp is rooted in irony. It's a perfectly valid approach. I think you misunderstand the nature of irony -- you're not "pretending" to love something. You really love it. You just recognize that, despite all your love or it, it's terrible, and often you love it for its failings, rather than in spite of them.

There is a lot that I love that is garbage. On the other hand, it is often honestly made garbage. Ed Wood was neither lazy nor a con artist. He really loved science fiction and horror, really wanted to make good genre films, and really wanted to express himself. But because of the limitations of his talent and his budget, he failed at this. But he failed magnificently, and his work is fun and sweet and full of heart despite its many failings, and its many failings give it the added bonus of also being hilarious.

There. I've made a case for Ed Wood. Now, will one of the Kinkade defenders here make an actual case for Kinkade, or are you all just being devil's advocates out of some misplaced rankling at what you see as aesthetic snobbery?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:23 PM on November 19, 2008


And Jim Jones' followers drank Flavor Ade. If you're going to try and dismiss me with a vague historic allusion, try to get the allusion right.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:24 PM on November 19, 2008


There is a lot that I love that is garbage. On the other hand, it is often honestly made garbage.

I know you believe these categories in your head really make sense and that all right thinking people ought to agree with you, but empirically, you are wrong. They do not. Your "good taste" is a phantom. It does not exist. You cannot define it. You cannot get people to agree with you what it is. In your attempts to defend and define your preferences, you cannot resist falling back into moralistic language like "honestly made."

If "art" has any meaning beyond "I like it" or "I don't like it" it is a meaning all messily tied up with our ideas about what is moral, what is good, what is evil, with all the controversy that entails.
posted by straight at 5:15 PM on November 19, 2008


Seriously, out of curiosity, do you like Thomas Kinkade? If not, what do you care if I think he's trash? And, if you do, why aren't you defending him, instead of making some first year philosophy student case that there are no objective standards in art? Because, if you're going to make that case, why don't you pop your head into every other thread today to remind everybody that it's all illusory, all just a social construction, and whatever they think is some sort of self-righteous moralizing.

Because it's equally true there.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:24 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, out of curiosity, do you like Thomas Kinkade? If not, what do you care if I think he's trash? And, if you do, why aren't you defending him, instead of making some first year philosophy student case that there are no objective standards in art?

Geez, take a chill pill, man.

Speaking for myself: no, I don't like Thomas Kinkade, but I don't dislike him. I don't care that you think he's trash -- I got the impression that we all were discussing, having a discussion here, not policing your specific aesthetic choices.

As for the "first year philosophy student case"?

I speak for myself. All I'm trying to say is that the judgment of art into 'good' and 'bad' is wholly arbitrary. You think that Kinkade is objectively, absolutely bad. Your method of responding to this is a vaguely ad-hominem or genetic-fallacy argument in which you respond not to the argument itself but instead attack the associations of the argument. And what kind of Philosophy 101 course reads all of Hume, Bourdieu, Ranciere, and whoever else matters in this little discussion?
posted by suedehead at 7:12 PM on November 19, 2008


Oh, rest assured, Astro Zombie, I come to bury Kinkade, not to praise him. It's just that I think it's futile and kind of silly to condemn the taste of a group of people according to criteria that they have clearly demonstrated (buy owning a Kinkade) they do not share. It's like you're railing against Hindus for breaking the Sabbath. Or trying to convince someone who likes blue that green really ought to be her favorite color.

I think you can condemn the taste of a Kinkade collector, but I think you have to do so in moral terms like the ones you slipped into using with your appeal to "honesty," as well as compassion, curiosity, humility, justice and other virtues that we either cultivate or neglect through the art we consume.
posted by straight at 9:26 PM on November 19, 2008


Here's why I condemn Kinkade, and Kinkade's buyers:

Kinkade is working in an established aesthetic: Representational art in a classical tradition, borrowing from the expressionists experiments with light. He has a stated purpose: To create a tranquil environment, and to reflect, in some obtuse way, God's holiness on earth. That's why he makes art, and that's the art his patrons buy.

So leaving aside my own personal tastes, we can fairly ask, has he succeeded at what he intended to create? I think this is a fair critical approach. Yes, it's rooted in a social convention, but one that Kinkade and his followers buy into. Indeed, it is arguably the appeal of his paintings.

And yet, within this tradition, he betrays such amateurism at crafting calming pastoral images that, if you look carefully at his paintings, you will see that streetcars are out of line with their tracks, so that, were they to actually continue, they would jump their tracks. He paints bridges that could not possibly successfully span the rivers they cross, and vehicles on those bridges that are angled at such a way that they are about to drive into the river. He builds edifices on such shaky structural grounds that they are on the verge of toppling, and animals and humans with distorted physiognomies. Looking closely at Kinkade's work, he has not created a calm, pastoral world, but instead one that is on the verge of falling apart. And he has not done this as some sort of hidden subtext, but because he is either incompetent enough not to paint what he wants to, or he simply doesn't care, but either way, he had created images that actually say the opposite of what they mean.

Further, he uses light as a metaphor for something. God's love? A warm, dry place? Whatever he means by it, he has misrepresented light, by creating something sourceless and over-intense. Light is not inherently calming. It can be used as a device of torture, as when policemen shine to bright lights into a suspect's eyes when they are interrogating him. It can represent fire, or an explosion, or the blinding brightness of the sun. And Kinkade has amped up the light in this paintings so that, if they were in the real world, they would represent such a danger. And that would be fine if he were painting exclusively metaphorically, but he isn't. He is painting in a realistic, representational form. Within that form, metaphors must be consistent with a realistic representation, or they send a contradictory message. Within a realist cottage, that amount of light in the daytime signifies an explosion or a fire. So once again, Kinkade has failed as his own stated aesthetic purpose.

And the people who buy his art don't care enough or know enough for this to be an issue. And that may make them happy art patrons, but it does not disabuse me of my right to call Kinkade on his aesthetic failings and to find his purchasers to be tacky for their own unconcern about art.

And what kind of Philosophy 101 course reads all of Hume, Bourdieu, Ranciere, and whoever else matters in this little discussion?

It doesn't matter that you've read them. What matters is that you haven't understood them. Complaining that an esthetical judgment is an arbitrary matter of taste based in valueless social constructions does not contribute to a discussion, it ends it, and nobody here has given me much of a stirring defense of Kinkade. And why? Because nobody cares to defend him, despite the fact that he is the subject of the post, and he is the one to whom I have addressed my criticism. Instead, you bring up Hume? Ranciere?

It's a dodge. We can make aesthetic judgments, we can defend them, and others can agree, and add to the case, or disagree and make their own case. But to make vague allusions to philosophers as though that shuts down any need to talk about what might be good or bad in art, what might be well-made or badly made? What might be worth investigating and what, as in this case, has little to offer? I would defy you to point to where Hume said this was so.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:55 PM on November 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Astro Zombie, do you think what you just wrote would convince the owner of a Kinkaid painting that it is bad? Why or why not?
posted by straight at 10:01 PM on November 19, 2008


What do I care what they think? People have a right to enjoy bad art. But that doesn't mean it isn't crap.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:10 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


That being said, I'd love to hear someone mount an actual defense as to why Kinkade's art is good. I'm open to persuasion. But the "it's all just a matter of taste" argument isn't going to sway me. I've leveled considered, fair complaints against the artist, and I would expect something similar in defense.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:14 PM on November 19, 2008


You know, I am actually pretty sick of relativist arguments.

Ok, great. So there are no objective standards, and everything is as good as everything else. Popularity begets validity.

So, by that logic, Saved By The Bell is just as good as (if not better than) Arrested Development. The Archies' "Sugar Sugar" is just as good as (if not better than) anything by The Velvet Underground. And Armageddon is just as good as (if not better than) Network.

Fuck all of that. Some things are just better than other things.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:08 AM on November 20, 2008


Complaining that an esthetical judgment is an arbitrary matter of taste based in valueless social constructions does not contribute to a discussion, it ends it, and nobody here has given me much of a stirring defense of Kinkade.

But to make vague allusions to philosophers as though that shuts down any need to talk about what might be good or bad in art, what might be well-made or badly made? What might be worth investigating and what, as in this case, has little to offer?


No. I've never said as such, and have tried (I suppose as less deftly as I would have liked) to avoid saying so. An awareness of arbitrarity doesn't at all stop us from arguing that something is good or bad. I could go on forever, but I'd rather not. You seem, repeatedly, to be confusing an awareness with an inability to get beyond this awareness.

As for Hume: I can't, because he doesn't say so, because he does believe in universals -- he grounds aesthetic appreciation it in sensation, which he then thinks is universally shared. His question, then, is of "who is 'good' enough to be sensitive to their perception and sentiment?" A reworking of the same problem, if you ask me.

-

As for your analysis of Kinkade:
Your first argument, the one about bridges and tracks being in misalignment and what not, argues that Kinkade's images aren't actually representational, they're impossible images that could never be achieved in real life. Your second argument says that his use of light is incorrect, since in order for there be that much light, the house would be in danger.

This all hinges on your assumption: He is painting in a realistic, representational form. Within that form, metaphors must be consistent with a realistic representation, or they send a contradictory message.

Just because his paintings look representational does not mean that they are realistic. Illusionistic and realistic are two separate things -- and who says that Kinkade is realistic in the first place? If we assume that Kinkade isn't being 'realistic', then your arguments are moot. Who cares if the structures in his paintings are incorrect in real life? They 'look' proper. And so on and so forth.

When you say "Light is not inherently calming", that has nothing to do why the light in Kinkade's pieces can't function as calming. You're confusing the object's qualities with the qualities of the image of the object. Or in better words, that would be like saying "horses are pretty and nice animals, so Picasso's Guernica (with its horses) is pretty and nice as well". Really, your assessment of light as having some sort of quality reiterates the fact that you're, again, approaching Kinkade from an utterly realistic point of view -- that if he creates a painting, then his paintings depict reality as it should be.

And finally, your conclusion is that "so once again, Kinkade has failed as his own stated aesthetic purpose." I'll just point out the obvious, which is that an artist does not have to achieve their own goals to be 'good', nor are they automatically 'bad' if they don't.

-

Okay. I used to fucking hate Kinkade. In fact, I can't even believe that I've typed his name so many times in this thread. Kinkade Kinkade Kinkade Kinkade. But here goes:

Here are a few aspects of Kinkade's pieces that are notable.

One: He seems to be always conscious of the range of color he uses in a piece -- that is, he seems to try to use a widest and most comprehensive range of colors in an image as possible. On one hand, this has the effect of making each image look like a rainbow when squinted at. On the other hand, this makes all of his works look (chromatically speaking) harmonious, lush, absolutely replete of color, even to the point of cloying excess. You can tell this is deliberate because, first, it's in every single painting, and second, it happens in paintings where this 'rainbow-palette' choice would probably detract from an accurate depiction of the subject matter, such as a snowy day at night.

I suspect that this choice has to do with some sort of sense of 'completion' or 'finitude' or 'fullness' that Kinkade wants to create -- it's 'full of all of the colors of the world, and thus bursting with life at every seam'. I don't think I've ever seen a monochrome Kinkade -- that's an oxymoron perhaps. And color, you can also tell, is a positive attribute for Kinkade because he uses it especially around houses, homes, places that supposedly stand in for warmth, comfort, security, and beauty. In this one, the home is lit up, while the rest of the image is relatively monochrome and colorless. Color versus non-color visual choices lie consistently along the same lines as inside & home vs. outside & nature. There's a value judgment being made here, of color as representing all of these positive values, and the fact that he scatters color over the entire image perhaps represents this desire to make an image chock-full of these 'positive values'.

Two. Compositionally speaking, of his images sort of 'open up' to the viewer, they simulate a viewpoint in which a person, walking in a landscape, would suddenly apprehend this image. Consistently, they're mostly landscapes, more often than not have paths leading forward from the foreground into the background, as if those paths are a continuation of one that the supposed viewer is walking on. These paths are usually literal ones, and they almost always lead into the place designated as desired. The suggestion is obvious -- walk into this secure space of domesticity, from the outside path to the inside home. It's a literal moralizing of sorts -- take shelter from the outside world; you're at the end of your journey; come home; etc. As others have mentioned, all sorts of biblical references are abound.

Three. More interesting, though, is this sense of constant absence, this feeling of lack that pervades those images. Very little of Kinkade's work has people in them. The majority of his works imply the recent presence of people. There are the houses themselves, almost "dangerously" brightly lit. Outside these houses, though, there will often be a trace of someone's presence -- and this presence is almost always an indexical one -- footsteps in the snow, or a snowman, or a beaten path in the grass -- these all indicate the presence of someone who was here but is not now here. I find this tremendously creepy, almost like this painting. On one hand, this genericizes the image, allows you to identify with this place and to claim it as your own; this was probably Kinkade's intent. But my reading of this is different -- not only might your presence have necessitated the absence of whoever was here -- they were chased away -- but instead of this absent person, everything else in the image turns to look at you.

Let me elaborate on that -- everything in the image seems to sort of open-up and look towards you. Kinkade simulates this scene in which a wanderer, on a path, arrives at his (or her) supposedly desiredly warm and comfortable destination. But when I look at his images, often times it seems as if the formal aspects of a house, or a errant lamppost, turn and face the viewer in a confrontation.

I'm really thinking of this picture, right here. There are no obstructions for the viewer, really -- the entire scene is laid right out. And nothing is ever obscured, or hidden. The side of the house disappears into the forest, yes, and the tree in the center is in front of the house, etc, yes, but everything else is immediately available in a distribution of images all-too-neat that conjures up an image of people jostling to get their face in a group portrait. There's a disturbing neatness, I guess, that freaks me out and fascinates me. The snowman is supposedly looking sideways, but it's in semiprofile, a visual device to indicate that the subject's looking away, while showing the entire face of the subject at the same time. The arch behind the snowman, and the eaves of the house are all composed according to this semi-profile like perspective -- they're all angled with the same degree, like a neat accordion.

The last thing I want to do is to bring psychoanalysis into this, but somehow this image reminds me of the famous Wolf-Man image, which was painted by one of Freud's patients who dreamed of five wolves in a tree, all staring directly at him. There's a similar sense of confrontation and apprehension. Part of this effect is generated by, I think, the identically shaped and colored windows that are organized almost into a grid, four above, four below, sort of like the eyes of a spider. Much like the presence of the white wolves against the dark background, the windows re too repetitive, too much of a focal point to be taken as a simple series of windows; instead, they seem to signify something because of their pattern-like repetition. If you include the light of the lamp, which is shaped differently but colored the same, then you notice that all of the lights in the scene are clumped into an orderly horizontal rectangle in the middle of the image. And not only are they gathered in the image, the windows themselves look like eyes, with the curtains and the shutters on each eye looking visually like the pupil, the iris, and the whites of the eye -- and the colors of the eye are shifted chromatically into the yellows and reds, as if these were bloodshot or angry eyes.

In short, the image generates the illusion of a viewer (you), walking along a path and encountering a home indicated to be beautiful and good by the lush colors of its decoration and the vibrant light emanating from the windows. But instead of finding a young kid or two, you find his/her absence indicated in the carefully abandoned snowman and the sled. And accompanied with this presence, you find that your view encounters this multi-eyed monster that sprawls across the entirety of the canvas, confronts you directly, attacks you head-on.

I dislike Kinkade. But there's more, and it's fascinating, his choices, there's something going on here and worthy to be talked about. It's interesting, to say the least.

You might argue that my arguments are evidence for why Kinkade is bad, especially since he doesn't achieve his desired motive. So? There are so many artists who are appreciated and considered 'good' in ways that are contrary to their own beliefs of what their own art says and should be.
posted by suedehead at 1:31 AM on November 20, 2008 [10 favorites]


I said: You seem, repeatedly, to be confusing an awareness with an inability to get beyond this awareness.

Sorry, this is sort of incoherent. What I mean is: You seem, repeatedly, to be confusing an argument for an awareness of arbitrarity as an argument for arbitrarity.
posted by suedehead at 1:35 AM on November 20, 2008


The last thing I want to do is to bring psychoanalysis into this, but somehow this image reminds me of the famous Wolf-Man image, which was painted by one of Freud's patients who dreamed of five wolves in a tree, all staring directly at him. There's a similar sense of confrontation and apprehension. Part of this effect is generated by, I think, the identically shaped and colored windows that are organized almost into a grid, four above, four below, sort of like the eyes of a spider.

So you're going for the Most Pretentious Would-Be Art Curator Award for 2008? Made me laugh, but sometimes a cheesy painting is just a cheesy painting.
posted by raysmj at 5:57 AM on November 20, 2008


Question.
posted by raysmj at 6:00 AM on November 20, 2008


This all hinges on your assumption: He is painting in a realistic, representational form. Within that form, metaphors must be consistent with a realistic representation, or they send a contradictory message.

That's not an assumption. Kinkade calls his style "romantic realism." My criticism of him rises from his own stated purposes.

Nice defense, though. Particularly impressive since you hate Kinkade.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 AM on November 20, 2008


Please look at the snowman picture that suedhead linked to. I have to agree that this picture is assaultingly creepy. I keep going back to it, the get worried that a coworker will see me staring at it. It's freaking ominous, it makes me feel like I'm trespassing. Then I spent a few minutes contemplating the 'M' of a bird in the sky - it's like the guy has no self control! The composition and picture would be better without it, but it's like a nervous tic that he just has to insert something in that negative space. The whole thing is so crowded, like some Martin Ramirez thing. And inside the house is an inferno, with the door bolted to prevent the residents from escaping.. And the fringe on the snowman's scarf makes it look like a dripping wound. And what's up with the sled? There's no snow accumulated on it, so it's new to the scene, but there's also no tracks showing how it got there.

Sorry.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:29 AM on November 20, 2008


Astro Zombie: "And Jim Jones' followers drank Flavor Ade. If you're going to try and dismiss me with a vague historic allusion, try to get the allusion right."

You're both right! There's no reason to argue.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:31 AM on November 20, 2008


Ha. Perhaps it is a matter of perspective, but where Kinkade attempts to draw a pastoral scene of warmth and comfort in the picture These Premises Are Alarmed linked to, I see a burning house being consumed by a wild overgrowth of local flora. I wonder if the artist is subconsciously imposing an element of terror into his paintings?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:44 AM on November 20, 2008


Suedehead, thank you for that awesome analysis. I've always felt a bit unsettled with Kinkade's neat little scenes, and now I see why. The complete absence of people is unexplained.
posted by Nelson at 9:31 AM on November 20, 2008


What do I care what they think? People have a right to enjoy bad art. But that doesn't mean it isn't crap.

If you don't care whether people like it or not, if you're not trying to convince anyone of anything with the statement "Kinkade's art is bad" then what is the point of saying it? Are you just venting? Does your statement have any more point to it than saying "Damn it!"?

You say you don't care, but I suspect you wouldn't say such things unless you really believe, as I do, that people ought to like good art and hate bad art, that they ought to care about the things that both of us agree separate good art from bad art, that there really is more to it than just "I like chocolate, they like vanilla." And that, it seems to me, is a moral judgment.
posted by straight at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2008


The different perceptions of Kinkade's work (happy vs terrifying) reminds me of some conversations I had with people regarding Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World. A lot of people bought it remarking how pastoral and relaxing they found it with a lady lounging in the tall grass, where I always felt that the image seemed more to be depicting an injured woman trying to drag herself back to her home.

I was surprised and pleased to discover years later that I was actually pretty close to the truth of it.
posted by quin at 9:45 AM on November 20, 2008


I had never heard of Kinkade. I read "Dodged corners, classic compositions, soft edges, mood, nostalgia, dramatic sources of soft light, sense of stillness, atmospheric effects, short depth of field", and expected something like this:

http://chocomalk.deviantart.com/art/In-here-57788708
http://chocomalk.deviantart.com/art/Belfer-Lane-54613035
http://chocomalk.deviantart.com/art/In-Truth-56684430

Then I looked up Kinkade's paintings and found cluttered, rainbow-colored kitsch. But the list still has me worried: Do I have bad taste for liking that kind of photos? Should I be worried? Please hope me.
posted by martinrebas at 10:13 AM on November 20, 2008


I always think whoever is living in those houses must be running up a hell of an electric bill. Either the lights are always on in every room, or there are no interior walls.
posted by casarkos at 10:22 AM on November 20, 2008


If you don't care whether people like it or not, if you're not trying to convince anyone of anything with the statement "Kinkade's art is bad" then what is the point of saying it? Are you just venting? Does your statement have any more point to it than saying "Damn it!"?

I dunno. I suppose I just like talking about art. I never really concern myself with whether I will convince anybody else when I make a case, and don't really care if I do or not. I guess me complaining about how much Kinkade's work sucks is like a lot of public protests I see. They may not convince anybody of anything, and they may not have any explicit goal, but sometimes it just feels good to speak out. I really enjoy complaining about Kinkade, and I suppose I should thank him for that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:25 AM on November 20, 2008


Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World

Trivia: former Pepsi and Apple executive John Sculley owned the Olson House and donated it to the Wyeth Center at the Farnsworth in 1991.
posted by ericb at 12:10 PM on November 20, 2008


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