Monday, April 2nd, 2012

An Analysis of the Thomas Kinkade Calendar for April

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” wrote Robert Frost, famously. Could he have been thinking of the yellow wood of “The Aspen Chapel,” featured as the April image in the Thomas Kinkade 2012 calendar? Clearly we have two paths—the familiar unpaved country road on the right-hand side and the sweetly babbling brook on the left. But why two paths, from a painter who has previously perfected and fetishized the depiction of the single charming path? Is there a man vs. nature duality theme here? Is there meaning to the fact that, pictorially speaking, the road gets abruptly cut off by the right end of the frame, while the brook is allowed to fade mysteriously into a mist? Fortunately this is Kinkade, so we can be confident that the answer to these and any other deeper questions is: “meh.” In all likelihood, one of Kinkade’s marketing execs accidentally brushed against his shoulder while he was firing off this image, knocking it off-center.

What we do know is that this chapel image is a fitting one for the month that is the highlight of the Christian calendar. April, of course, contains Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the holidays that mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and which celebrate God’s victory over sin and death. However, this is Kinkade’s Christianity, which means here there is no sin and death to begin with. No, we can't have that. This cotton-candy Eden certainly does not need saving, and, like Frost’s yellow wood, contains “leaves no feet had trodden black.” This must be the other Easter, the one with the bunny rabbits (see the bunny rabbit in the lower left corner?) and candy baskets, where everything is hunky dory. In that tradition, the proper way to celebrate is by enthusiastically applying pastel paints to a plain white egg. Yeah, sounds about right.

Or maybe there’s another April holiday which is being commemorated here? Consider the options: April 22 is National Jelly Bean Day, April 15 is Rubber Eraser Day, and April 17 is National Cheeseball Day. But perhaps the most fitting occasion is April 4, which is Walk Around Things Day. This is a day to avoid potential problems and risks by, yes, literally walking around them. It’s national conflict avoidance day! This is the day when Kinkade’s work strides up to a number of potent art themes, pauses, and then politely steps to the side without confronting them. Until we have a National Kinkade Day, this will have to do.

And what do we know about the Aspen tree whose golden leaves populate this flickering yellow wood? Aspens are mountain trees that thrive in the raw sunlight but avoid the shade. How appropriate for the Painter of Light! They tend to grow rapidly, but have a short shelf life. Ditto! According to legend, aspen wood, if sharpened into a stake, is the only kind of wood that can kill a vampire. Has Kinkade gone Goth? Can you imagine Stephenie Meyer, the Writer of Vampires, hooking up with the Painter of Light? Lastly, aspen wood is in the salicaceae family. These trees produce salicin, which when metabolized, becomes salicylic acid, or as we know it, aspirin. There is relief from the pain, Kinkade viewers.

Previously: January, February and March

Drew Dernavich is a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine (not that cartoonist – the other one) and the co-creator of the cartoon improv show Fisticuffs! He is on Twitter.

24 Comments / Post A Comment

theheckle (#621)

Kinkade only knows stupid cows. That rock wall is WAY too low. Furthermore which stupid assistant put a fall picture in for April.

wallsdonotfall (#6,378)

@theheckle And look how much water is in the road! If you know the soil has poor drainage, why would you build so close to a stream? I'd bet good money that church has significant flooding issues.

theheckle (#621)

@wallsdonotfall Notice the significant slumping of the church toward its rear. That thing'll be in the creek in no time. Thomas Kinkade is actually painting engineering horror stories.

riotnrrd (#840)

@theheckle The poor craftsmanship of that church is the least of its problems. From the light streaming from its windows, it also appears to be on fire.

riggssm (#760)

@theheckle I'm dicking around before a meeting where I'm probably gonna quit my job (scary!) and this was a much needed laugh. Thumbs up, all.

Pandemic Endemic (#3,825)

@theheckle The run-off from the cow pasture will flow downstream then right into the basement where the church holds Sunday school and Jell-O potlucks.

Maybe the church looks ablaze because the parishioners are burning piles of incense in there to cover up the cow poop smell?

Mister_Neutron (#5,921)

@theheckle The cows are wearing shock collars. The stone wall keeps the guinea pigs in. (Hard to see these details without a higher-res upload.)

Baboleen (#1,430)

@wallsdonotfall I guess there will be no 12 step meetings in that basement.

dorkmuffin (#231,236)

[discreet cough] Probably birches and not aspens….


Brunhilde (#1,225)

I eagerly await comment from The Bionicman.

Mister_Neutron (#5,921)

Ugh, I just can't with this guy…
… OK, I can for at least one point: it KEELS me how in not one of his paintings does the so-called "Painter of Light" depict a single definable light source that, you know, creates areas of light and shade in a coherent manner. #UPYOURSMASACCIO

guera_burque (#231,282)

Aspens are communal or clone organisms, forming entire groves from a single seedling. Forest fires are their friends, and they repel evil spirits (unverified).

This picture makes me sad because the cows are fenced away from the creek. This is correct wetlands management policy but just look at those thirsty bovines. Jump, cows, jump!

On the topic of situs, who builds their church in a floodplain anyway? There are no power lines in Kinkaide world so I guess all those windows are lit up from the books burning within.

City_Dater (#2,500)


They don't even have to jump. If those cows were thirsty enough, they would just step right over that purely ornamental wall. Or just break down the crappy little wooden gate, sending the curiously large rabbits of Kinkaid Calendar World racing through the forest in a panic.

sigerson (#179)

Aspen would TOTALLY drown that close to the stream. River birches like their feet wet, so that would have been a more realistic choice. Or perhaps a weeping willow. But Aspen trees like high mountain sides, the steeper the better.


Anarcissie (#3,748)

Why are you all so obsessed with Kincade? What is your problem?

@Anarcissie Yes – I might have a problem. But this is why:

Hey, let's all agree to classify something as "low-art" (via being loved by the masses)and pretend to take it seriously so we can snicker to each other while reveling in our superior sense of discernment. After that let's go unironically enjoy a Pixar movie.

daemonsquire (#9,523)

I just heard he died, and this is the first place I came, to check for the news. I had to confirm elsewhere, but having read this, had to come back to express the wish that his death not spell an end to this project! I have to admit: I find so much about the Kinkade…ouevre? …phenomenon? …er, Experience so offputting that I always initially just breeze (swiftly, willfully) past the calendar image as it crops up in The Awl-stream. However that may be, you, and the Commenters of Light have established such a rich dynamic, that illuminates so much of the pleasure to be had from a Kinkade image. Something about savoring the delights of the mundane resonates so deeply through both your work here and his. I unironically enjoy this (which I would put in quotes, to refer to my having drawn it from the comment immediately above, except I thought it'd require this note anyway), and look forward to relishing his memory here each month of 2012.

Oof, I'm gushing… His death must have hit me harder than I thought.

daemonsquire (#9,523)

(yes, I confuse days-old Awl comment threads with news sources)

Ya'll killed him.

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