Monday, January 15, 2007

More Modern Masterpieces

Thomas Kinkade! You know him. You love him...or at least, most of Christendom does.

Frankly, I don't see why.

Sure, if you like all your art to use the same colors and for most of them to look nearly unidentifiable from one another, then, yeah, I guess he's okay.

I can describe nearly any Thomas Kinkade painting to you without ever having seen it. First, there will be some sort of structure, usually a cottage, maybe a castle as above. Secondly, it will probably be either sunset, or sunrise, or if not, there will be some sort of foliage or other to diffuse the light. Either way, there will be some softened source of natural light. Thirdly, it will look happy. It won't make you feel happy, at least not if you're me, but it will look happy and cute.

What would you have to do to a Kinkade painting to get me to buy it? I don't know...maybe, something like this:

Okay folks, meaning brothers and sisters in Christ, I have a bone to pick. How have our tastes become so pedestrian? Take literature for instance! We have some of the greatest minds since the Reformation among our ranks. We used to read Chesterton, and Lewis, and MacDonald. Now what do read?

LaHaye and Jenkins.

I'm sorry, but it's all very wrong. Kinkade is not the problem, but simply one of the symptoms. He wouldn't be so popular if you didn't buy his crappy, cliche paintings. We have a connection with the most creative being in the Universe. I know I've said it before, and maybe I'm beating a dead horse, but how is it that our creative faculties have become so handicapped, so numb? Our Father invented the stars, the oceans, and all the life therein. He invented us, and formed us from Clay. Yet, somehow, we, who should have the market cornered on art, disqualify so much that could serve as inspiration, paint ourselves into our little corner, and thus cut off circulation to our heart, our creative organ.

Note: I realize this post isn't too original, drawing from Kinkade as the subject matter. I would like you all to know that my decision to do it stemmed simply from my wish to ridiculously deface a Kinkade painting...digitally, anway. Thank you.

Listed on


Joel Bezaire said...

Kinkade is indeed the symptom of a larger problem. It's a flawed theology.

Every one of his paintings displays an idealized society, blissful and serene, perfect, etc. Is this how God wants us to view this earth?

Sure, we are supposed to recognize the beauty of creation, but we are also supposed to recognize it as FALLEN. Do Kinkade's paintings show any small glimpse of the falleness of the world? No. Any view of sin? No.

There are ways to portray the beauty of creation while still acknowledging fallenness. Not in every painting, but in a body of work. Something Kinkade has NEVER done.

It's scary that such a view is pervasive in Christianity, as evidenced by the amount of Kinkade Kitsch out there.

Rant over.

Allen said...

I find his paintings scary, because they seem like something you'd see at a dentist's or doctor's office.
When was the last time you saw a Marc Chagall in a church or religious institution ( anon-Jewish one, I mean)?
Joel, I like your point, but I somehow doubt that the theology behind his body of work runs that deep. It seems to be more like "What will make us feel warm and cozy?"

How much for the Godzilla-ized Kinkade?

Miss Kitty said...

I'd buy the Godzilla or Muppet Kinkade ANY day of the week. And twice on Sunday.

Great post, Greg--and great comments above as well. (And for the record, LaHaye & Jenkins make my skin crawl.)

Joel Bezaire said...


I don't think he thinks it through that much either.

My point is: does that make it better or worse?

Joel Bezaire said...

And yes...any Kinkad painting that contains a Fraggle with a Battle Axe is right for me!

Claire said...

I am both Christian and an artist (although I wouldn't say that I'm a Christian artist) and from either point of view, Thomas Kinkade makes me want to puke. Coming from an artistic perspective, where's the interest in Kinkade's work? Where's the challenge, the originality, the realness? It's overworked, it's trite, it's schmaltzy--I don't even think it's pretty.

As a Christian, I object to the warm-fuzziness it makes Christianity out to be. I do not belong to a warm and fuzzy religion--I belong to one that challenges me on all levels. Surely Christian art should do more to reflect that?

Allen said...

Let me just put my head through this noose and stand on this creaky trapdoor here:
In the religious "inspirational fiction" market, there is a reciprocal loop. The target audience is mostly middle-aged women, since they are the bulk of those who buy such books, and so most of what is produced is geared to that demographic.
Thomas Kinkade's work has always struck me as sort of... feminine, and I can't help wonder if his popularity is another symptom of the marginalization of men and maleness within the modern, westernized church.
And... yank the lever!

Diesel said...

I LOVE your "improved" Kinkade paintings. Wait, strike the quotes on "improved," because they really are better than the real thing. Hilarious. Wish I had thought of it.

You missed one key element of his paintings though: rainslicked streets. In Kinkade-World, it has always just rained, but is never raining.

I have to dissent a little bit from the comments here, because I think Kinkade is extremely talented. Sure his work is kitschy, trite, schmaltzy, etc. But seriously, I couldn't paint something a tenth as good as that. Of course, that just makes it all the worse that he doesn't stretch himself as an artist, and has basically turned his "art" into an assembly line that churns out feel-good quasi-Christian junk.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Would Monet have ever trademarked himself? as in "The Painter of Lilies" TM ?

I mean, there is no glory in being a starving artist. I'm Ok with artists making money. But that little tagline tells me everything I need to know; that is, it's a racket.

And I like Joel's theological smackdown a great deal.

If you want a painter of light--as in still life that seems to be illuminated from within--go look at Cezanne. Or if you like light and shadow, Caravaggio. You'll then come back to this and tear Kinkade up.

Ellyn said...

As a woman, I consider myself to be 'feminine'...and I can't stand Kinkade. I think a better adjective would be saccharine.

I would agree that he a certain amount of (wasted) talent. Sort of like Martha Stewart hosting a cooking show on which she made chocolate chip cookies cut from a roll of commercial dough. (which, really, is best eaten raw...standing in front of the refrigerator)

Diesel said...

BTW, did you know that Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive? To his brother, no less.

bethany said...

I think it's important to note that your critique applies to what we LABEL as christian art, and not the fine art that many christians ARE doing today. Not that you implied otherwise, I just want to emphasize that there are also the Lauren Winners and Anne Lamotts out there now too.

Gregory said...

Duly noted, Bethany. Everyone's comments on this post have been great. Thanks!

Mile High Pixie said...

I think if you can link Godzilla, Fraggle Rock, and Thomas Kinkaide in a single blog post, you have more than turned the corner on creativity and are now rollerblading without elbow pads towards hilarious.

And I'll outbid you for the Godzilla Kinkaide painting on eBay.