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 Thomas Kinkade brings art back to the people

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Sep 13, 2001

At the dawn of the 21st century and the nadir of post-postmodernism, a funny thing is happening in the art world. Tired of the excess and shock of the previous century, people are returning to the simple idea that art should be something that is pleasant to look at. Leading the charge against the ivory tower "intellectuals" is a quiet Christian man named Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light.


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Thomas Kinkade, Hidden Cottage
The paintings (and reproductions) of Thomas Kinkade are the most widely collected of any living artist. His legions of fans run the gamut from homemakers to working husbands to grandmothers all across the country. Kinkade's work has appeared on Hallmark greeting cards and countless calendars. He has even authored several books. No other artist currently alive has had such a dramatic impact as he.

Born and raised in California, Kinkade showed an aptitude for art early on. His upbringing in a small American town set the stage for his later blossoming as the voice of reason arguing for a return to the simpler pleasures of a quiet, domestic life. Like all great artists, his journey towards artistic enlightenment was a bit rough and tumble, and he ventured across this great land of ours on box cars in search of the vision that would guide him through his later life. Eventually Kinkade found his voice through scripture, and he has been preaching his message through painting ever since.

[According to some], the concept that an artist would be revered by popular culture is an immediate dismissal of his relevance as an artist. To my mind, the art of the elite is the irrelevant art. To my mind, no matter how much the New York critical establishment tells me Robert Rauschenberg is an important artist, his Q rating is zero. No one knows who he is.
Thomas Kinkade

Indeed, we live in sad times when quality judgments are only allowed by a handful of "professionals" who's sole qualification to judge is that they have spent a great deal of time around art. Since when does it require a college degree to decide what is attractive? What gives these people the gall to believe that they are uniquely suited to these tasks? It does not take a lifetime of study to appreciate beauty, and in fact the obsession of these people has led them away from true art, not closer to it. Time and again our schools and and culture have been shown to ruin the minds of those who study too deeply, filling their heads with contempt for their pedestrian roots.

Thomas Kinkade, Spring Gate
The art world was hijacked by a group of self-styled "elite" artists in the early 20th century in Paris, and we have been struggling under the weight of this oppression for almost 100 years. Art is quite simply a manner of conveying beauty and serenity to as large a number of people as possible. Any higher aim of art should be restricted to the realm of the spiritual awakening. Sadly, the 20th century was dominated by those who felt that art should serve a darker purpose. Not content with elevating mankind, these new practitioners chose to saddle the field with explorations of bestial tendencies and political dogma. Art was ripped from the hands of the people and made to serve a new master. No longer was it acceptable for a simple person to derive simple pleasure from a painting. The entire idea of beauty being in the eye of the beholder was cast aside, and it became necessary to "study" something that previously was accessible to even the most unlearned cattle farmer.

The work of Thomas Kinkade is changing all of this. It should again be reiterated that amongst every day people, no other painter's work is more collected and disseminated than that of Kinkade. His renderings draw from a deep well of spirituality, suggesting the peace and perfection of the simpler life. The essential concept that a work of art should be enjoyed on a purely superficial level is resurging in society, and we are slowly casting off the idea that a visual medium has anything to convey to us other than visceral pleasure.

Kinkade's paintings often bring to mind those of Norman Rockwell, that other chronicler of rose-tinted Americana. Where the great difference lies, however, is that Rockwell was expressing a view of the times in which he lived, fearing to venture into the realm of wistful daydreaming. Further, Rockwell was also tainted by the mid-century art movement, and he occasionally fell victim to the fallacy that an image can speak of harsh reality rather than just offering an impractical ideal to strive towards. Kinkade has had the strength to resist these temptations, however, and has always kept the subject matter of his compositions firmly fixed in simplistic ideals and a view of the past as it should have been, rather than the way it actually existed. In doing this he provides an avenue of hope and a window to a better life for those stuck in mundane reality.

Thomas Kinkade, Julianne's Cottage
The reasons why paintings such as those shown here are so loved can be explained in part by their power to evoke a reaction in a manner so formulaic that one wonders why other so-called "artists" have failed to achieve the popularity of Kinkade. That is only part of the story, though. In addition to his formidable skill, Kinkade also wisely understands that today's fast moving, global culture requires other efforts to make one's voice be heard. To this aim, all of his work is expertly disseminated by a highly competent marketing agency, thereby ensuring that his genius is available to all. Further, in order to meet insatiable demand, Kinkade has chosen to push his talents to the absolute limit by producing approximately 2 dozen works suitable for his fans each year, while still finding time to publish his books and grant interviews! I know of no other living artist willing to make that sort of sacrifice for their fans, and in fact if you compare the output of Kinkade to any of the hacks worshipped by the high-society "art aficionados", you will see that those other "artistes" simply don't have what it takes to generate a masterpiece every two weeks like Kinkade does.

As for other painters who are not popular household names like Kinkade, the reason they will never achieve wealth and fame is because they have willingly turned their backs on all that is good in humanity. They were tempted from the path of righteousness, and it shows quite plainly in their work. The road to salvation lies with embracement of the status quo and catering to the simple wants of people through the established market. Thomas Kinkade - painter, father and Christian - has not only shown us that road, he has made it available to us in abundance via posters, reproductions, and even limited edition signed prints in the frame style of our choice.

Thank you, Thomas Kinkade.


I'm glad art like this is still available. (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by dmg on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 07:38:36 AM PST
I mean, I don't know all that much about art, but I know what I like, and I like these.

Perhaps they are not 'elite' enough for you pseudo-intellectual art connosieurs out there, but for many people these paintings add a welcome touch of color and happiness to their lives.

Now, you may argue that since adequacy is the home of controversy on the Internet that we should prefer the likes of such so-called artists as Mary Kelly, Tracy Emin, Damien Hirst, Gilbert and George, Chris Ofili, and indeed many of the adequacy editors love these artists and defend them despite their obvious lack of any talent whatsoever. But I do not fall for their sensationalist tricks. They are simply attempting to get a reaction and generate controversy at any cost.

If there is such a thing as an 'artistic troll' then the aforementioned "artists" deserve a +10 Troll moderation. Don't get me wrong. I am not a philistine unable to appreciate the finer things in life, and I admire work by the "good" modern artists such as Mark Rothko, Donald Judd, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock , and the like.

I have developed a rule of thumb for modern art. If it involves faeces, semen, blood, urine, or dead animals or religious iconography of any form then it isn't art and it isn't going on my wall any time soon.

Now I realise that many of you sophisticated intellectuals here at adequacy will disagree with me, but I have to make a stand for good taste. Sometimes, someone has to make a stand and point out that the emperor in fact has no clothes.

time to give a Newtonian demonstration - of a bullet, its mass and its acceleration.
-- MC Hawking

What is good taste ? (none / 0) (#15)
by bigmouth strikes on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 08:42:49 AM PST
I really find the above story interesting and intriguing. However, I am strongly opposed to the notion that there is a "true art" and that there is no value in having studied art.

I am not saying that anyone cannot appreciate art just because they have no history of doing so. On the contrary, I believe that the initial contact with art can be the purest and finest. But, I firmly believe that taste can be trained and evolved through frequent use. This is true for
  • art
  • music
  • theater
  • cinema
  • photography
  • wine
  • food
Let me exemplify:
Just like small children do not instantly like "adult" food like salmon and herring for instance, we grown-ups must realize that we can learn to appreciate something we do not instantly like. This goes for all of the above, art through food. Our taste will evolve as we train our body and mind in experiencing wine, music and cinema. I used the term evolve, someone might want to use the term refine, but I refrain from doing so.

With the argumentation of the story above, I ask you the following:
Have adults hijacked the food world from children by claiming that baby food is not good food for adults ?
Have food elitists hijacked the food world when they use terms as "junk food" ?
Come to think of it, are the author of the story not guilty of "art elitism" by claiming Kinkade to be "true art" ? What is wrong with my own sketches ?

Just because something is popular, does not necessary mean it has a quality. I don't know why the story is so art-specific, maybe the author have an extensive Thomas Kinkade collection or something. There is of course no difference between the painting arts and the musical or performing arts. To me Thomas Kinkade is to art what muzak is to music and McDonalds is to food. It may be a technical masterpiece or it could be paint by numbers; it is still not particularly interesting.

I don't think anyone is arguing your rights to express your opinion of art and other forms of expression, but if we're ever making a qualitative comparison, we must be allowed to use previous experiences - even those of others - in doing so. Isaac Newton said that he may have discovered the much about the classical physics, but that was because he had stood on the shoulders of giants. "Good taste" is not absolute and static and we must nurture our own.

What was considered bad taste a hundred years ago, is now reactionary. We should keep an open mind, and respect the views of people more knowledgeable than ourselves in certain topics. No one is forcing their views onto us, they're just showing us another recipe we might want to try instead of having yet another hamburger.

His art makes me feel good, why is that bad? (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by Adam Rightmann on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 09:09:08 AM PST
In these troubled times, what is wrong with art that provides comfort?

What does it say of our society when Normal Rockwell and Kinkade are considered trite, boring artists for celebrating the best parts of American life? It says our moral compass is hopelessly skewed, or more likely, the moral compass of the artistic sorts is hopelessly skewed.

I've known a handful of artists types who like this new art. Without exception, they are sullen, black clad ne'er-do-wells, opining against American values 28 days of the month. the other 2-3 days of the month, they're preppy little Buffy or Muffy because mummy and daddy are visiting their expensive eastern liberal arts college and they want that big check from them. Basically, these artistes are spoiled, loveless children raised without the love and fear of God.

The PC answer is that we need them, and their provocative art to help us question society. The danger there is that the line to cross over keeps going further and further. Once your own fecal matter in a can is not enough, what's next, half cows in saline solution. Once that is no longer shocking, what's next, setting oneself on fire. Plainly, for the good fo society these sorts must be taken care, reeducated, and their talents put to use painting Hallmark cards.

A. Rightmann

Indeed you are right. (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 10:38:54 AM PST
I recently attended a so-called 'performance happening' and I have to say it was without doubt the most disgusting, offensive un-Christian thing I have seen in my life. The 'artist' if we can dignify the performer with such a title claims to be 'questioning our perceptions of reality vs media-created non-reality' and 'breaking down the barriers between pornography and mainstream art'.

And how does he do this ? [warning highly offensive 'art' link. Do not view whilst eating]

By sticking his head up his own ass.

This sick individual is being funded by our tax dollars. How can this be right ?

Pleaes sign in, good fellow (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by Adam Rightmann on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 12:18:53 PM PST
and even get an account, it's heartening to see like minded people here.

A. Rightmann

if you like, buy it (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by alprazolam on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 11:23:42 AM PST
If you don't, don't buy it. Are you some kind of communist? The government is not the business of dictating values. Or at least, not the federal government. If you don't like it, buy a plane ticket to red China.

but it shouldnt feel *too* good (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by venalcolony on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 12:21:26 PM PST
What does it say of our society when Normal Rockwell and Kinkade are considered trite, boring artists for celebrating the best parts of American life?

It tells me too, too many people are eating from the wrong limited edition ceramic plates. Art should experienced as a revelation gradually brought to light under one's disappearing beans and rice, and as art imitates life's cycles, pondered in the John under a signed print of Dogs Playing Poker.

On the point of the john: The ambiguous (read geeks) should verify their purchase with the beatnik chix0r at the gallery so as not to accidentally substitute Maplethorpe for Dogs and likely divert attention away from what is meant to be a purely aesthetic epiphany of the eye organ, not not not the organ shaped like an "i". This unfortunate confusion began way back when when Arthur the art fag and waiter at il cacciatore was making tireless demands of the kitchen staff that "art should be felt". Yeah, right. Fool me once, ...

The difference between trolling and life is life doesnt have to make sense.

Thomas Kinkade (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by elby on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 02:18:10 PM PST
Thank you for opening my eyes to this wonderful artist. Today for lunch I headed off to Great Khan's in the food court of a local shopping center. On my way up the escalater I noticed a sign "Thomas Kinkade, Painer of Light gallery, third floor."

To my surprise, a Thomas Kinkade gallery had opened here recently! A store dedicated to the one and only Thomas Kinkade! I wolfed down my lunch and headed straight over to the gallery.

Not only could I purchase original reproductions of his paintings, but I could purchase plates and mugs and odd warming-tray-looking-things with his art on them! I'm saving up for my next visit now.

Thank you, zikzak.


Kinkade is not McArt ... more like T.G.I.Art (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Sep 13th, 2001 at 04:54:26 PM PST
You see, I don't like McDonalds, too cheap, there's no talent ... I prefer the quality, orginality that real restaurants like TGIFridays, Sizzlers and Blank Angus etc have.
They have real chefs, chefs who know how to cook a steak the way I like it. Chefs who know where to put the gravy on the plate. Chefs who don't waste my time and money with frivilous garnish.
Some time ago a 'friend' tricked me into going to a fancy, 'new age' restaurants. I got a few pieces of lettuce on a plate for my salad with some light dressing and 'rasberries' and other fruit. I immediatly told them if I could have blue-cheese dressing on the side with a few creutons (sp?). You should have seen the scowl of disdane I got from the waiter! Oh, am I not good enough to say what I want and get it?
When I go to a restaurant I judge it by the quality of steak I get, as that is all that I ever get. At this restaurant they didn't even serve it! Something about being a 'seafood' restaurant. Well excuse me, good christian americans like to have steak on the menu. I've been to seafood restaurants before and they had steak! Haven't you heard of 'Surf and Turf'? So I got the halibut in light cream over jalapeno fettuchini as I thought at least it might be 'tex-mex'. It wasn't even that spicy or tangy! I found myself wishing for George from TGIFridays on hilsdale to be my chef, but he just graduated from aragon high school and since summer vacation is over is off to UC Davis full time. At least he knew what medium rare was, not like this chef could tell chicken from beef!
I don't know why we can't make all restaurants follow some sort of minimum guidelines. I pay taxes to have health inspectors look through these places, why can't they make sure that there are some minumum standards that ALL restaurants and chefs have to follow? Otherwise I might find myself going into a resturant and finding that I can't get what I want, the way I want it, and get it quickly with a waiter that doesn't look at me as a child when I complain that they don't even have a blooming onion for an apetizer! What am I supposed to do then? Walk out with my tail between my legs, embarassed that I don't know what is going on in this resturant? I know food, I know good food too, and I shouldn't be made to feel that I don't know how to order if I go into a resturant!

Maybe if this resturant got its act together they could open up other restuarants and perhaps be able to franchise! Not that I want it to be like some McChokes or Subway and have untrained package openers as chefs. But if they don't shape up they at least won't be able to have one in every major town. If they really cared about their vision wouldn't they bend their art to be able to reach ordinary americans. Perhaps if they put a steak on the menu and made it good they'd attract the populace into their restaurants where someone might try a scallop sashimi on a dare and find they like it?

Why do they have to be different?

Just don't O.D. on the stuff (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by Anonymous Reader on Fri Sep 14th, 2001 at 07:36:42 PM PST
It may cause mental detachment from the real world. Do you think they should start making "Leave it to Beaver" again too?

Silly (5.00 / 2) (#30)
by Anonymous Reader on Sat Sep 15th, 2001 at 01:54:28 PM PST
There is absolutely no point to give free publicity to Thomas Kinkade, or to buy his paintings. You're only ripping yourself off. You can get virtually indistinguishable works by local or lesser-known artists at strip malls, big-block grocery stores, flea markets and garage sales around the country - usually for less than $20.

Please, save your money and head out to one of the aforementioned venues to support local and lesser-known artists who have not attained for themselves the same marketing favors Kinkaid has. Kinkaid did not invent this style of art, nor should he be allowed monopolize it, thereby putting the hard-working artists in your own neighborhoods out of work.

Exactly! (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by elenchos on Sat Sep 15th, 2001 at 02:51:44 PM PST
If a cheesburger, fries and a Coke are your idea of a good enough meal when dining out, fine. That is certainly no crime. Being satisfied with a Chevy rather than needing a Mercedes is nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, you can count yourself fortunate that you are easier to satisfy than those who need gourmet meals and all that expensive stuff to enjoy themselves.

But what is a crime is when someone sells a Chevy at a Mercedes-Benz price, or asks as much for a cheesburger as for lobster. That is what's wrong with people like Kinkade -- they are con artists, passing off jouneyman work as the product of a master.

I wonder constantly why we haven't created any regulatory agency to put a stop to this kind of thing. Perhaps a simple warning label at least, like they have on cigarettes or movies "The US Government has determined that this artist is no better than ten million other artists selling their stuff at craft fairs and flea markets across the country, so don't pay more than $20 for this painting under any circumstances." If that doesn't work, maybe some sort of fines would do it.

As true Libertarian at heart, however, I would of course be highly critical of any legislation giving the US Justice Department, or any agency like the FBI, ATF, DEA or National Endowment for the Arts the authority to shoot artists like Kincade on sight. The last would be especially absurd, since NEA agents only carry pepper spray and truncheons, which are sufficient for their duties, IMHO.

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by dmg on Sat Sep 15th, 2001 at 03:50:18 PM PST
It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.

- John Stuart Mill

time to give a Newtonian demonstration - of a bullet, its mass and its acceleration.
-- MC Hawking

Pearls before swine. (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by elenchos on Sat Sep 15th, 2001 at 04:23:33 PM PST
While we Libertarians support freedom of individual choice, we also have a well-doucmented affinity for violence, or offering others stark choices between doing what we want and suffering extreme violence at our hands.

Given these two conflicting values, the validity of forcing a pig to enjoy pearls at gunpoint is pretty much a toss-up. We need some other criterion do decide. Perhaps practicality? After all, while pigs are surprisingly smart, they are not smart enough to understand what pearls are, nor what a gun is. They probably don't even have a concept of mortality. So how could you ever succeed in making the pig like perals, even if you were to let the pig's freedom of choice be overruled by the joy of being a bully.

So forget about the pig. Maybe you have a really smart pig that you want to educate in the finer things, but for pigs in general, what can you do? Let them be.

What I'm talking about are those who prey upon the credulity of the world's pigs. They should not be allowed to get away with it. Ideally, a free-market system should be developed to allow the "invisible hand" to drive the Kincade con men out of business, using Darwinian principles. At least, to drive them down-market where they belong, selling their "genuine oil paintings" in vacant lots for $14.99, or two for $20.00.

How? Well, first you need a class of wealthy individuals created by the principles of Capitalism. Then, tax the holy FUCK out of them. This should net you a budget somwhere in the trillions of dollars. Then, use these funds to set up a regulatory agency to measure the artistic merit of all art, and label it appropriately. The various categories of art may have specific dollar values assigned to them. Anyone caught selling low-grade feel-good McArt (or TGI-Art, perhaps) for too much would be written a ticket and fined appropriately.

Again: NO guns, no jackboots, no one gets arrested and sent to prison. Freedom and liberty are PARAMOUNT here, as I've made clear. And since this system uses the NATURAL and inevitable principles of the free market to set itself in balance, it is inherently stable and predictable, ensuring a just and equitable outcome for all.

(Sorry for any typos in this post, BTW. When I first started posting comments today, I was just drinking coffee, but since Guinness was on sale at the store yesterday, I went ahead and started drinking that as the afternoon wore on. Drunkenness tends to mess up my typing a little, although I haven't detected any ill effects on the quality of my reasoning.)

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Great article! (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by error27 on Sun Sep 16th, 2001 at 12:18:44 PM PST
First of all, I'd like to thank zikzak for his excelent and informative article! Thomas Kindade, Painter of Light,is one of the truely great living artists.

The thing that I love about his paintings is their deep spiritual meanings. Clearly, there is a little bit of heaven in each painting! It's like a blessing on applied to the eyes.

The only minor quible I have with the article is the word "formulaic" was used to describe one of Kindade's paintings. Each of the paintings is a unique masterpiece of great genius! The only thing that at all can be considerred similar between the paintings was the genius and devotion that went into them! If genius and hard work is considerred a negative thing by elitests, then I'd be flatterred if someone applied that term to me!

Two arguments here (none / 0) (#35)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Sep 24th, 2001 at 09:18:54 AM PST
We need to separate the two arguments being made here.

The first is that "elite art" isn't the only true art, and that artists that are more popular but not "artistically correct" are "real" artists too. This argument has been going on for a long time, with Norman Rockwell as the prime example.

The second is that Thomas Kinkade is another example, like Rockwell, of a high-quality artist of this type.

On the second point, I will only venture my opinion that I like Kinkade's work. I don't know if I would elevate him to the level of Rockwell, though. There could be quite a bit of disagreement on that score, as the debate here seems to show.

The first point, though, seems to me to be self-evident. Apart from artistic merit on its own terms, the idea that Rockwell and Kinkade are "not artists" or "not high artists" because of some criteria set forth by a bunch of academics is completely wrong. There is nothing about the visual arts or literature that requires it to not appeal broadly to large numbers of people.

Artists like Rockwell and Kinkade are like the science fiction of the art world; the "establishment" rejects them more out of conservatism than any real consideration of the merit of their work.


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