Calendars! Monthly calendars and tchotchkes. That's the Thomas Kinkade approach to gift giving: Culture as knickknack. Slap the Mona Lisa on a mug. Stick a picture of Monet's water lilies on a mousepad, and you're done. But do we really have to settle for such obvious choices? If you're a supporter of the visual arts, you should want gifts that are both more fun and more meaningful. I certainly do, and I've put together a list of the art-related gifts I'd like to see this holiday season.
Edvard Munch's "The Scream" front-load washer sticker
Because the only thing worse than being trapped in a state of existential dread [...]
Last month we asked if Jon McNaughton was the right artist to take Thomas Kinkade's place in American culture and decided that it was not a good fit: McNaughton's much more concerned with ranting than actually painting. No, the next Painter of Light cannot be somebody with too many complex ideas. He needs to present something as familiar and easy to pull on as the cozy fall sweaters you're currently pulling out of your dresser drawers. The work should be ubiquitous and unchallenging, suitable for Facebook. And if you support our current president you already may have clicked 'like' on the work of one such artist already, that is [...]
As we discussed last month, the passing of the Painter of Light left a huge Thomas Kinkade-sized hole in the American cultural landscape. Was he merely an outlier, or is there another Kinkade out there ready to occupy the same territory? Who, if anyone, can we look to as a successor?
Now, there are plenty of artists who can give Kinkade a run for his money in the "hearth and home" department. Too many, really. Richard Burns' impossibly idyllic cottages look as if they were sculpted out of sherbet. Sung Kim's scenes tap into the primal human urge for scratch n' sniff. But when you look [...]
Of all the months we've looked at so far, the August image in the Thomas Kinkade 2012 calendar may be the most quintessentially Kinkadian. The lighthouse. The cottage. The trademark glow. This one should have been effortless to critique. But when I started typing out notes, I realized that I was done with critiquing his work. No more Kinkade analysis! Could I possibly say anything new about a man who basically painted the same thing hundreds of times? The mere thought of the task started to bring on a headache. Since it's summer, I decided that it was time to have some fun with him for a change. It was [...]
"I have something in common with Norman Rockwell," Thomas Kinkade once reflected. "I like to make people happy." Right, and that's also why Krispy Kreme makes sugary donuts and why Joe Francis makes "Girls Gone Wild" DVDs. Regardless, nobody would argue too much against the fact that Kinkade, the fine art painter, is considered in the same "American populist" category as Rockwell, the magazine illustrator. However, Rockwell also confessed that "I am a story teller." And this is where the similarities abruptly end between Rockwell and the man who so badly wanted to be mentioned in the same breath as his idol.
The July page in [...]
Well, this is awkward. But before we start, let me say: R.I.P. Thomas Kinkade, who died last month. While all of the circumstances surrounding his later life and sudden death may never be fully known to the public, it's clear that he was carrying some demons in addition to his talent and ambition. It's also clear that his painting had become an effective way to mask those demons. Thomas Kinkade the Message was supposed to be the proxy for Thomas Kinkade the Man, but Thomas Kinkade the Marketer overruled them both. But while he's gone, his monthly calendar is still a thing, and so, yes, this column is still [...]
“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 [...]
March’s image is titled “A Peaceful Time.” And indeed it is a peaceful time for you, because you are not the unfortunate owner of this cottage. Take a look at it. While there's certainly much to recommend it as a residence—the picturesque location, the flowers so lush you could eat them—this level of immaculate rusticity is surely financially ruinous to maintain. When a stone wall requires repair, the owner cannot simply summon a mason, but must instead ask the Historical Society to appoint an art restorer. The savings that would ordinarily go toward the kids' college fund instead must go to updating the plumbing. I count one, two, three, four, [...]
This month's painting is all about journeys.
“Formulaic.” “Schlocky.” “Tremendously successful.” These are some of the epithets that are routinely directed toward painter Thomas Kinkade by the cultural elitists in the current art and media establishments. But has anybody really taken a deep look at Kinkade’s work? You can dismiss his work as cheesy sentimentalism, but hey—can you name any other fine artist who has so thoroughly dominated the intellectual territory between Lids and Things Remembered? I didn’t think so. In an effort to plumb the complexities of Kinkade's work, each month I'll be discussing a page from his 2012 “Painter of Light” calendar. Let’s start with January, the month that Kinkade—slyly—has chosen to lead off [...]