Sunday, May 28, 2006
Give Kitsch A Chance?
Isn't it amazing how quick we are to be cynical?
This week I was Hungary at the European Leadership Conference. Excellent bible teaching. Fascinating peopel. Lots of pipes, chinos and bizarre facial furniture! One afternoon I got to talking with a Romanian lady about the kitsch landscape artist, Thomas Kincade. Kincade is a bit like the Starbucks of the Art world. He doesn't paint in isolation but employs an army of shop assistants, PR people, lawyers, sub-contracted atists and technicians to help pass on his vision of, as he puts it, 'hope, peace and harmony... salvation to all'.
I've always cringed away from this kind of work. It's so badly painted and Kincade's vision of hope is sentmental at best. He paints visions of a perfected world, the garden of Eden, but set sometime in the 1950s. Each painting is signed off with his signature (containing his own DNA for authenticity) and an appropriate bible verse. This is kitsch art at it's glorious worst. Hope is reduced to sentiment, heaven to fluffy clouds and transcendence to romanticised sunsets. In the absence of evil his paintings offer a false sense of hope. There is nothing to redeem from. His paintings are sentimental, utopian, ultimately hopeless...
... But then I met Ulga who really likes this kind of art. She recognised that the paintings are not great art but they give her "a sense of peace" that inspire her in a difficult world. So I was corrected (once again and long may it continue)... I should be more careful when judging the personal value someone puts on art. Hear me right on this: I still think Kincade's work is not great art. In fact, I think it's shallow, sentimental and should be turned into poetic performance art expressed through the medium of bonfire. I'll place judgement on Kincade as the artist but not on his audience.
In my flat I have a jar painted by my nephew, Jakob who is 10 months old. It might possibly be the worst rendering of pink vomit I have ever seen but it has more value to me than any other piece of art I have. Jakob is not a great artist (yet!!) but his art has tremendous value to me. In the same way, just as Kincade is not a great artist, Ulga finds great value in it.. and that is worthy of celebration.
This is the interesting thing about Kitsch. It tries to be perfect but fails. Those who enjoy it are looking for something perfect. They won't find it in Kincade... but at the very least kitsch art exposes that inner desire in all of us for something good, something perfect, something beautiful.
Kitsch is not the answer but it illustrates the longing.
Posted by Ally Gordon at 12:07 AM