Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why Do They Hate You Thomas Kinkade?

 Thomas Kinkade, the 'Painter of Light' was an artist whose work was often reviled as saccharine, cliché, nostalgic, and treacle filled.  It has been called "deeply hideous" ( Dana (2004). Stone Arabia. Scribner. p. 59). Great art, so the say goes, is gritty, raw, energetic, and address struggle and the fight of human existence. 
Yet, in a period of artistic diversity that allowed (in the 20th century) bottles of human urine 
In the 18th century a literary school developed known as "Strum and Drang" (Struggle and stress) and was visited in literature and music. It is generally described as a proto-Romantic movement in German literature and music taking place (late 1760s to the early 1780s).  It stressed the individual and rebelled against the sentimentality it saw in other movements of the day. Art also played with this theme and it reflected well the growing class struggles seen in the burgeoning class struggles, revolutionary thought, and socialism of the time. Its 'soundtrack' was music that was highly emotional, making rapid and unexpected key changes and tempo breaks. The literature was designed to shock and unsettle the accepted way of doing things. Here is the birth of melodrama.
Visually the works of people such as  Joseph Vernet, Caspar Wolf, Philip James de Loutherbourg, and Henry Fuseli, expressed the emotion, the struggle, the challenge, and the fear of life lived in moments of 'struggle and stress'.  There was an emphasis on paintings of nightmares, shipwrecks, of battle and of tensions in private or public settings.
Fuseli, The Nightmare, Detroit Institute of art

The Shipwreck (1772), Vernet,
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C

Following in this intellectual wake were modern artists of the 20th century who rediscovered a love for the shock and oh!  Andres Serrano in 1987 urinated in a jar and inserted a crucifix into the liquid and photographed the result. This created 'Piss Christ" and he was paid $15,000 for the work by the National Endowment for the Arts. Immediately denounced by almost everyone but the art world, it was finally destroyed by angry viewers in 2011.
In 1995 in a show appropriately called "Sensation" debuted  Myra is a large painting created by Marcus Harvey in 1995.  The footprints of children were combined to create the blurry photographic like image.  "Norman Rosenthal, the Secretary of the Royal Academy, described it as the single most important painting in the show – "a very, very cathartic picture ... It is an incredibly serious and sober work of art that needs to be seen." (  The problem?  She was one half of a team that murdered children. Weather she was an active player or not is immaterial; her silence allowed children to die as if she herself did each act.  Yet, it is a 'work that needs to be seen"?
Thomas Kinkade, however, is "deeply hideous"?
Isaiah 8:20 (KJV)  "if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" seems to point to the cause of this disconnect. It is what Francis Schaeffer in his Art and the Bible points to when he notes that the inner soul of the artist will always be revealed by their art. The dark and fear of the storm and struggle allows no light or hope beyond that found in the individual. There is no sentimental hope of divine help, spiritual guidance, or nostalgic memories of positive mentors or happy moments.
Thomas Kinkade, in comparison, said of his work: "In more than twenty years as a professional painter, my consistent goal has been to create inviting worlds that draw people into their depths and encourage them to seek a better, brighter, more hopeful existence."
This motivation or perspective can be called the 'glass half full in opposition to the glass half empty'.   Basic starting places that, ultimately, lead the creative at work in whatever medium, to vastly different places mentally, spiritually, philosophically, and creatively.
What is the opposite of artistic Sturm und Drang? Kinkade might represent a 'Ruhe und Frieden'  (calm and peace) at odds with post-modern harshness and struggle.  In the end, the tendency to revile Kinkade's work in total as "deeply hideous" reflects more of the lack that is the critic than the occasional overdone completed work by the late painter.

One has to wonder for these art critics, when the storm and stress end, where do they envision themselves?  For most, the soft focus pastels of a warm and welcoming cottage in soft natural settings or along safe forgotten lanes strikes a cord of mythic importance.  Deep inside we can face the storm and struggle only if we know, or hope, that somewhere there is a light on in a small nest of life just for us. 

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