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Thomas Kinkade

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Generally I find that artists (the one's who have faith in Jesus) are not very comfortable using the phrase Christian art. Someone has said that "Christian" is a good noun but a poor adjective. What could we possibly mean when we speak of "Christian art"? We are inclined to think of art with Christian themes I suppose, art that is obviously Christian in its content. But does that get to the heart of the matter?

A candidate for your "Christian writers need editors" blog feature, Jeffrey? wink.gif

It's a bit ironic that an essay by a Christian writer in a Christian publication lamenting the assumption of mediocrity in Christian product is so indifferently written.

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I always equated Thomas Kincade's work as on par with PBS art instructor Bob Ross... except that I liked Bob Ross, and he only had a half hour to turn out his work. In fact, a lot of the techniques I use to paint sets came from watching Bob Ross.

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I try to snarl every time I walk past one of his galleries. But sometimes I forget. I am sorry for sometimes forgetting.

Dale

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This reminds me: At an art fair on Saturday, I saw this magnificent (I mean this earnestly, not sarcastically) collection of 25 Polaroids framed as a single work to tell the story of a swimmer. It was $700. I half-heartedly tried to convince my wife that we should purchase it. "But it's only $30 per Polaroid," I argued. She was not convinced. Neither was I, really -- I mean, $700 for 25 pictures! -- but still. I was sad.

Dale

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Even with the brevity of that article, one gets the impression that the author was padding to fill space. While I resonate with what he says, it's a poorly-written piece.

To play Kincade's advocate for a minute, though - no painter paints the totality of human existence. No artist can even hope to capture "life as it really is". Someone (I wish I could attribute the quote, I use it all the time) said that all art is primarily selection. At most, an artist strives to accurately portray a slice of life - a brief perspective on life. OR, perhaps more precisely, to innacurately portray a slice of life - to exaggerate or distort a slice of life so as to show it for what it really is under the skin.

While I agree with the author - Kincade's work strikes me as saccharine, too - I wonder sometimes if that's a fault of mine and not Kincade's. I went through America's art instruction meat grinder. I absorbed many of the art world's prejudices and cynicism. If Kincade is trying to portray the good, or the pure, and through it to induce longing, maybe it's the jaded, fallen part of me that's reacting against it. The part of me that rankles at the thought of goodness and purity. The part of me that is comfortable in sin, and uncomfortable around righteousness. Dr. David Wells defines "worldliness" as that system around us that makes evil seem normal and righteousness seem odd. Maybe my artistic tastes are too "worldly" to appreciate Kincade's work.

But then again, theologically it's impossible for Kincade's work to be unfallen, even if it might be redeemed. Perhaps what rankles is not goodness, but the facade of false righteousness. Since it cannot possibly BE purely good, perhaps it rings false when he tries to pass it off as purely good.

I don't know. I do know that I grow uncomfortable whenever we trendy folks cast scorn on brothers in Christ for being un-hip. That elitist sense of "I'm in the in crowd, I've got taste and style" often defines itself by excluding others, putting them down. We in the art community are perhaps most prone to this sin. I try always to root it out in myself, and to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, I believe there is such a thing as objectively good art - there is a hierarchy of value in art that is not purely a matter of preference. So, I get hung on the horns of my own dilemma. My petard is a-hoisting. Who can rescue me from this body of death??

Edited by crimsonline

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But then again, theologically it's impossible for Kincade's work to be unfallen, even if it might be redeemed.

It's also worth considering that just because Kinkaide describes his own work a certain way, that doesn't necessarily make that description the most insightful or useful way of understanding it. As has often been noted here before, artists can be remarkably obtuse commentators on their own work.

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I once saw (I can't remember where) a hilarious print of a Thomas Kincade village in which the "frame" had been expanded to reveal that these idyllic cottages were possible only because of a boundary guarded by heavy artillery and patrolling tanks. Now THAT'S a print I'd buy.

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I own a Kincade.

It's a cross on a hilltop. I like it a great deal. It's weatherbeaten, jammed into the rocky crags and looking as though it were there since the beginning of time. I bought it for my wife, who likes golden hues and visions of warmth. I think it's the hope she sees there. I generally don't get excited when viewing cottages weighted down with snow spilling yellow light into a darkening landscape, but for her its an enchantment worth bringing a radiant smile to her face that complements the picture nicely. I, having a few degrees of snobbery within when it comes to art, found the hilltop cross a wonderful compromise, as it stood more rugged and majestic--and struck a chord within me, 'the Name lifted on high' springing to mind, so it made for a gift that not only prompted a gasp from her, but something I felt I didn't have to hide when the guys come by due to what might be perceived as eau de cheesy...

The other of his that I like is simply the face of Christ. It's not even in full detail, more of an impressionist portrait. I saw it one evening at Christmastime when I felt very heavy hearted and it brought me back to a sense of perspective and unlikely wonder--the man of sorrow, the Prince of peace, they all floated about in my mind as I regarded it in the shadows; it wasn't lit well, tucked away under some ambience in a corner of the store. I had to step in to see if it really was what I thought it was, because all I initially saw was a dark horizontal streak with a splash of red lower down on the page...I knew nothing of how much the artist made a year, or why, or how righteous he was or what a sellout he might be. I knew only that that painting surprised me, reached out and spoke to me, and had I money, I would own it and light it in exactly the same way--surreptitiously, drawing the viewer close to see if it were really what it looked like.

user posted image

This isn't meant as admonishment to anyone here--it's just the way I see it. If his work is pathetic--so am I for finding it beautiful and his talents respectable. If he's been blessed with success, amen--the one who invested his talents saw a return, and the master rewarded him; the one who buried it did not. Kinkade is investing his, and it seems to me the Master finds his efforts to hold some small merit.

------------

Edited by Jason Bortz

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Jason, I've never seen the prints you've described and shown here.

In fact, all I've ever seen and heard of are the homey, glow-y, cottage-type scenes, which he seems to mass-produce.

I withdraw my blanket-statement condemnation. I should know better.

But I'm still no fan of the mass-produced, touchy-feely stuff I've seen so much of.

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Link to my interview Kinkade, which I've posted here in the past. To reiterate, I'm not a big fan of his art, but as an interview subject, he's one of the best. Very well-spoken. No "umms" or "uhhs."

I got nervous Googling for the link above, because I was spelling Kinkade "Kincade," as in the thread title. I got lots of hits with that spelling, so I was crestfallen when my interview came up under "Kinkade." Did I spell his name incorrectly in my interview? I wondered. I was reassured when "Kinkade" pulled up numerous hits, too. I think my spelling is correct, FWIW.

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Christian wrote:

: I think my spelling is correct, FWIW.

Well, considering the first page it turns up is Kinkade's official website, yeah.

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Christian wrote:

: I think my spelling is correct, FWIW.

Well, considering the first page it turns up is Kinkade's official website, yeah.

Just paranoid, after all the shots here at Christian sites in need of editing. wink.gif

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I dont hate Kinkade's art work the one thing i dont like is did anybodey catch that 60 minutes interview where he slammed Picassio that is probilly the main reason i dont like him that and the whole image looks so contrived and sachrine but the guy sells so who am i to judge i dont really like it and it's not my cup of tea but if he likes it go for it.

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i seem to have come across this attitude in other forums and i wonder why that is?not that i'm a huge fan of kinkade's work, but he is my brother (not literally) and as such i want to honour him as much as i can. the fact is, i wish my own art were so eminently palatable as to be put on tshirts, mugs, fridge magnets, plates, underwear, calendars, tattoos (i'm sure there's one on someone somewhere), clocks, pens...i just seem to have made different choices regarding my audience. the work is pretty decently painted - though formulaic (and really, don't we all chase after the groove, the sweet spot?) - and i may not be moved deeply or prolongedly (i know, i know, not even a word), but the fact is that kinkade gives what he has (i.e. talents, skills, reputation) to a number of christian humanitarian aid organizations and does so freely and with a heart to help the needy. pretty kingdom, i think. he is a businessman and as such has targeted a specific (or as general as possible, actually) audience. he is not trying to appeal to moma and mattress factory and ps1. he is trying to reach the "great unwashed masses", and is doing it well. his heroes are rockwell, and parrish - populist painters. he is very clear about this. he will not engage me very deeply, but that is also not his intent - it is not a cerebral art he's after. i think it's more hopeful. we can talk about kitsch and cliche and sacharrinity but how will that help? it won't add layers to the work. and this is where we sometimes need to have grace for artists who choose different paths, intents, purposes for their work. we all make our work from various positions or agendas. and we're all called to different arenas. let's just use our tools wisely.

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we can talk about kitsch and cliche and sacharrinity but how will that help? it won't add layers to the work.

For me, that is part of the problem with his work. There is nothing there to move the work from art to Art (to play a bit on having just read _Wicked_ and the difference between animals and Animals). His stuff is what it is and doesn't try to be anything else. The things you point out are mostly about technique and craft, but that alone isn't what makes something Art. His life may be a great work of art (and I applaud him for that), but his art, to my eyes, is lacking. The Mona Lisa is more than a good portrait. Paul Taylor's _Aureole_ is more than a pretty dance. There is nothing wrong with a work being beautiful, but that in itself doesn't make it Art.

Falling short of the lofty goal of Art, is not in itself a bad thing. There is still much debate about whether Pollock's work is art. And I come across many people who find little compelling about Bach's work outside of its music virtuosity. And as big a fan as I am of Steve Morse and Eric Johnson, they haven't said anything new since there first couple of albums. Sometimes artist forget that finding their voice (or groove, as you mention) is really only part of the battle. The next thing is to actually have something to say.

I was watching Wynton Marsalis and his Septet practice for a ballet for which they were providing the music and he got up and yelled right in the middle of a piece "Practice at home! I'm here to play. If you are going to solo, play something, otherwise sit it out." Now, Kinkade may have said something and I missed it, but he seems to have said the same thing about a couple of thousand times.

Now he may be a shrewd businessman and he has done many, many good things. And I am sure he is a wonderful person to know and has admirable goals and heros. But that doesn't mean his art is above reproach. But then, if we are examining his art we really should examine his art and not draw conclusions on the man.

But this is just my opinion and worth exactly what you paid for it.

Joe

Edited by jfutral

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well, i think he is still trying to communicate something - and that is, i think, the core purpose of art. communication. not therapy. not self-expression. but the attempt to commune with someone. i hear what you're saying about the art/Art thang. here's my metaphor. art is like cake. it can be a simply made cake or an elaborate cake with many layers. it's still cake. cake is cake. cake is good. but! some cake has more layers. angel food cake is tasty but it is a single flavour. black forest chocolate cake is something else entirely. but also still cake. so what i am trying to say is that kinkade still makes art. but it is not on the level of the mona lisa (though how the mona lisa is more tahna good portrait would be an interesting discussion as i thought it isn't confirmed whose portrait it is). agreed. perhaps it is on the level of maxfield parrish? lawrence alma-tadema? bougereau? 2nd tier abstract expressionists? pseudo-cubists? i'm not arguing that it's great art. it's a wee thin, i think. but business practices aside (and let me know who doesn't employ some sort of marketing to get ahead - the mona lisa may have been to curry support or patronage. and what was the sistine chapel but the biggest butt-kiss in art history? yes, pope. whatever you say, pope. picasso, matisse, warhol, durer, hals, rubens, raphael, rembrandt...as far as i know business - who it is done for i.e. your audience/ client - was a big part of what they did and sometimes even how they did it.) i'm not saying it's profound - give me mauricio lasansky or christian boltanski any day. it's a sentence not a song. but it is still art. maybe art which falls below your obviously (and i agree) high and demanding standard, but still art. my note about kitsch et al merely adresses the content (form, functionality, vocabulary). many artists employ those very attitudes (ragas?) as an important aspect of the content of their work - perhaps the sentimentality of kinkades work doesn't employ those thing consciously. then again, do the pre-raphaelites? i just think art (Art?) is a continuum, and perhaps kinkade is at the LCD end of the spectrum. thanks for the workout.

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well, i think he is still trying to communicate something - and that is, i think, the core purpose of art. communication. not therapy. not self-expression. but the attempt to commune with someone.

Yes and no. I think the best art balances communication with expression. Too much of the former and you have a telegram, or an ad circular. Might look like art, but it's not. Too much of the latter and you might as well let a chimp do the painting.

art is like cake.

Horsefeathers and poppycock. How can you say art is communication and then say it's like cake? Cake does not communicate. Cake is consumed.

picasso, matisse, warhol, durer, hals, rubens, raphael, rembrandt...as far as i know business - who it is done for i.e. your audience/ client - was a big part of what they did and sometimes even how they did it.)

True of Rubens anyway. One of the most boring rooms in the Louvre (to me, at least) is filled with huge Rubens canvases commissioned by the Medicis. As for Warhol, his oeuvre is more or less an ironic comment on the marriage between art and commerce, and it's just gol-darned amazing that his work is so successful as a consumer product when every bit of it sneers at people who treat art as a consumer product.

I think, however, for most of the artists you listed, there was or is some tension between what they had to communicate and what the audience wanted. Rivera sneaking Lenin into his mural for the RCA building is a famous example of such tension, but every great artist experiences it. Nothing will kill the quality of an artist's work faster than getting to the place where he is producing exactly what "the audience" or "the public" wants to see. And that is exactly where Kinkade has planted his flag.

Edited by mrmando

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anyway, i said self-expression, as in "i had fun doing it" or "i wanted to express my emotions" (whatever those mean...), and not expression which, i suppose, refers to the method or language one uses in communicating an idea - more of a conscious choice to use a particular style, colour etc in order to express (dare i say communicate?) idea. and please, the point of the cake metaphor was the layering of meaning, or the richness contained within said piece of art. though you're right, all art is indeed made to be consumed. taken in and digested, as it were. and some art is sugary and some art less so, or using other non-refined sugars, or maybe the metaphor isn't intended to be a perfect metaphor for the entirety of art and simply one way of thinking about the art divide...so maybe that's okay. it's a metaphor, after all. maybe not a good one, but i am quite sure you knew which part of the metaphor i was employing to communicate. i'm open to other metaphors, though. i'm not absolutley attached to cake. and re: my list of artists (as drop in the ocean as it is) simply refers to the marketing of oneself as an artist, whether bourgeois a la matisse and his comfortable armchair art (his words), or as misunderstood outsider, or as avant-gardist is a choice of audience regardless of (or sometimes because of) sales. some go for the money, some for noteriety, and most of us simply fish someplace in the middle, ish.

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With cake, no matter how purty or layered or gussied up it is, you eats it and you goes on as you was before. Cake do not permanently change you.

Whereas, art provokes you to think, to explore, to feel, to realize, to consider, to change. If it don't, it ain't art. Or if it's meant to and you don't let it, then you are an eater of cake rather than a lover of art. And you know what Marie Antoinette said about that.

And, finally: Paragraphs are your friends. They help to make the difference between self-expression and communication, if you get my drift.

Edited by mrmando

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oh yeah? well, maybe you're just too obssessed with the cake metaphor to let it breathe and i'm too attached to it to let it go. let's just say that i do actually agree with you about what [i insist, the best] art does, i just don't think that all art created by artists functions in that way, or at that level. art often doesn't fire on all cylinders. which is a shame. i just know that where i stand (fine arts degree, exhibiting for 10+ years, working in a public art gallery) art iso ften not what i think it could (and should) be - it simply isn't up to my standards. i think art should challenge, provoke, think, feel, awake, etc. again, some art does it more forcefully. more effectively. but even art that doesn't measure up to my own particluar standards often does do those things. so i'm just trying to leave some room for the possibility that there must be something there somewhere. there must be some 'art-ness' there. there must be something communicated or affirmed somehow. and i think that sometimes art can re-affirm ideas that don't change us or may encourage us or sedate us, which makes it a poor example of what art could be. but i realize i'm repeating myself. i need to go install an exhibition of experimental ceramics tomorrow, so adieu.

and by communication i don't mean information or didacticism.

paragraphs? but i thought i had sent a paragraph!

one last question (and maybe this should be another thread): i'm wondering which art pieces have done those things to you that you propose all Art should do - "[it] provokes you to think, to explore, to feel, to realize, to consider, to change", and how? and how much art is then outside of your circle? or are the edges permeable?

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mrmando wrote:

: And, finally: Paragraphs are your friends. They help to make the difference between

: self-expression and communication, if you get my drift.

Nice. smile.gif

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i just don't think that all art created by artists functions in that way, or at that level. art often doesn't fire on all cylinders. which is a shame.

(Speaking of chimp art:

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/a...n_050621095846)

I agree. Not all art an artist creates will be great. Not all of Alvin Ailey's work approaches the explosion of _Revelations_. Sometimes (often?) an artist has to go through an awful lot of chaff to get to that gem. Or at least with some artists' chaff you still get a sense of process when you look at it as a body of work. It just seems that Kinkade has decided that the chaff _is_ the gem.

Not to be harsh. OK, maybe I do mean to be harsh. It seems if the only way for us to understand Kinkade's meaning to his madness, or at least come up with something of our own other than commercialism, is for him to explain it to us (such as with the interview posted by Christian or here, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/014/6.48.html), he missed the boat somewhere.

I suppose the same could be said for van Gogh. But then his art wasn't all that popular when he was alive. Or maybe it was just Gauguin who ridiculed his work.

Anyway, I do think there is a tremendous difference between an artist who is trying to make money being an artist and crass commercialism. Kinkade's work falls into the latter for me.

Balanchine's _Nutcracker_ is good example of commercially viable art. Unarguably a tremendous commercial success. It is the financial cornerstone of many dance comapnies. And though it may be sometimes hard these days to see past that, there is a tremendous amount of Art still there.

Joe

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Don't worry, techne, I think we actually agree but have been talking past each other. I was using "art" and "Art" interchangeably and should not have done so.

I didn't mean, for example, to imply that I didn't think Rubens was an artist. There are probably a lot of people who would find great meaning in that roomful of Rubens at the Louvre. I might even find it myself if I took time to learn a little more about the artist and about those particular paintings.

And now that I have calmed down I do see the point of your cake analogy. We all know there's no such thing as a perfect analogy. Can we agree that Kinkade is serving up a steady diet of supermarket sheet cake? Is he perhaps an artist who aspires to create art but not Art?

Paragraphs provide "breathing room" (another imperfect analogy). They allow the eye to rest for a moment and the brain to process the thoughts at hand before going on. Just as the composition of a painting is wrecked when you crowd the canvas with too many details, so too a written composition is marred when it contains no paragraph breaks.

When I say "expression" I hope it's clear that the term encompasses "self-expression." Some bit of ego in a work is not only permissible but almost unavoidable. Rembrandt, Velazquez, Michelangelo

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well, okay. it's usually a matter of defining terms. i just don't really have much time for the distinction between art and Art. i think it's all art, just that some of it is, in fact, better. more realized. more art-full. but i will acknowledge that what you mean by Art is simply what i mean by many-layered and rich. a mouthful of art.

and i think that the distinction between expression - conveying meaning and self-expression - which, rather than conveying one's own meaning, seems to be more often about therapy and indulgence and not really about communicating something - is actually crucial to define.

and i also don't think popularity or the lack of it has any bearing on whether something is art or not. there is, after all, no accounting for taste (though hopefully one can grow new tastebuds). some very good art is appreciated even by the masses (though perhaps not always on all the levels an artist might hope) and some very bad art is unconscionably popular (left behind or precious moments, anyone?). sad, but true.

i also consider the fact that a lot of the baggage we have about art is cultural and very much predicated by romanticism and modernist philosophy. the artist as genius, an original, as a unique individual who bucks the status quo, as seer. there are some elements of truth to those tropes, but the larger history of artists doesn't dwell on those ideas. the framework for artists has been that they find their meaning and purpose within the context of a community, with whom they share a language, and whose lives they enrich with their offerings. after all, it wasn't really until the 18th century that the distinction between arts and crafts, and then fine arts versus illustration or graphic arts really began to take hold, and that along with the concomitant idea of the artistic genius. which we have applied back through history retroactively when it was less of an issue. we have our own lenses. and not that i think there is a purer way to be an artist and make art, but i think some of those ideas are interesting to consider, especially within today's global visual market and economy.

but all this circling around got me thinkin'. i was thinking about all the various ways all the various types of people with all their various backgrounds and differing levels of knowledge about art and was wondering if there are ways of defining art that isn't so dependent on the viewer's response(s)? characteristics of art, hallmarks of art. here's what i've started with:

1. skill, or ability to express visually what it is they are trying to convey - i think this would encompass elements of art such as colour, gesture, composition...

2. intentionality, or purposeful use of their artistic vocabulary (would consciousness of making be better? i think this would include choices artists can make on such elements such as presentation, style, scale...

3. creativity, or ability to infuse old dried up symbols with new and unexpected meanings or resonances or allusion...

i know these are general, but i don't think we can measure creativity itself - though perhaps the question of how the artist shifts how we perceive something should be a hallmark, it just begs the question of how much a shift it needs to be? and one man's shift is another man's dishrag...any thoughts? do we need venn diagrams or pie charts?

knowledge and information about the artist and style and technique and cultural context can enrich our experience of the artwork, but it must speak to us on its own terms first and foremost. it has to have strength in its bones.

i just find that often kinkade is an easy target, perhaps one that is more indicative of a general shallowness within the christian sub-culture, which his work in some ways re-affirms. his art does what it does, and does it well. it just isn't very good, or rich, or lasting, or interesting. he has one note, but he has a note. the painter of light? i think ross bleckner is a painter of light. or rembrandt, natch. or vija celmins. but they have light with metaphorical weight, not a veneer. or sean scully (who once said, "to invest a brushstroke with emotion or meaning is a desperate thing"). give me ann hamilton any day (though many may not think her work is art-full). or antony gormley. or annette messager. or hieronymus bosch. or van eyck. or matthias gruenwald. or even andres serrano.

stpo. now, breathe.

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