K is for Kitsch and Kinkade

| May 1, 2014

As George Steiner says, quoting Keats, “it is the very force of declared intent…“the palpable design upon us” in bad art, in kitsch, which we must learn to ignore.” (Real Presences, 174)

The most productive posture for a creative endeavor is that of inquiry, creativity as inquiry, art as a means of finding things out, a way of knowing. Artistic practices are clearly in a more creative position when able to ask questions and be curious about a given matter then when they are tasked with asserting or disseminating particular positions. This is not because this allows art to simply ‘say whatever it wants’, but because the process of inquiry via artistic languages is where the agency of art takes place. It is the inquiring, responsive engagement that triggers the feedback of form, of pattern, style, image, expression, etc. The agency of art is unlocked when we work through a given matter of concern in the aesthetic.

It is this lack of inquiry and agency, perhaps, that I find missing in the paintings of Thomas Kincade – as seen below.

Beyond that, Kincade’s work is, perhaps, a “positive image” analogous to Ranciere’s depiction of the intolerable image, with its idyllic hamlets hung in the homes of 1 out of 20  middle-class American homes, who could never afford such an escape, in reality and, according to the article below, “wanted to buy and view art that was straightforward and pretty” instead of the more exclusive art, seen as “bewildering, snobbish and distasteful” –

Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/thomas-kinkades-polarizing-legacy-how-will-the-painter-of-light-be-remembered/2012/04/07/gIQAov1G2S_blog.html

Kincade, the best selling artist in U.S. history, who created works deplored by critics as mediocre and saccharine, as the article points out, is the only artist to be so famous while never having had a work on display in a museum.