Animadversions.

The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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The dark world of Thomas Kinkade.

August 30th, 2006 · No Comments · Art, Misc., Rants

I noticed that the FBI is apparently after Thomas Kinkade - the guy behind those pastel fairy tale hut paintings that you see all over the place. I always assumed he was like Bob Ross - really good at one, specific thing and able to churn out a ton of product at breakneck speed. Not an extraordinary talent, but not a bad guy either.

Apparently, Kinkade - who is beloved by evangelicals - is accused of playing off of his position as a religious icon to prey upon Christian investors as part of a complicated scheme aimed at devaluing his public company so he can buy it out at a deep discount. If it’s true, it’s certainly pretty bad, but not very interesting. A quick googling of Mr. Kinkade, however, reveals some pretty amusing stuff.

First, reading critical responses to Kinkade’s work is a hoot. The guy is - as near as I can tell - universally reviled by the entire critical community. A choice quote from essayist Joan Didion:

A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent cosiness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.

Nevertheless, millions of Kinkade “paintings” (prints that are “highlighted” with small splotches of paint by so-called “master highlighters” that work in the hundreds of Kinkade galleries around the country) hang in American homes. This massive popularity has led to some fairly hilarious attempts to leverage the “Painter of Light” brand. Attempts like “Hiddenbrooke” - a planned community inspired and approved by Kinkade. It promises a “vision of simpler times” - and for prices starting at a mere $400,000 - offers a “neighborhood of extraordinary design and detail” with “cottage-style homes that are filled with warmth and personality” and “garden-style landscaping with meandering pathways, benches, water features and secret places.” Of course, when you get there, there are NO Kinkade-esque features to be seen. No waterfalls, no gardens bursting with flowers, no thatch roofs, not even smoke from a single chimney (it offers only gas fireplaces). The reason? Kinkade’s “simple vision” is cost-prohibitively expensive.

Then, of course, we have the scandals.

On top of the shady business deals, sketchy real-estate schemes and assembly-line art production, you can also find accusations of sexual misconduct. And tales of his drunken harassment of Sigfried and Roy. And, of course, there’s his supposed love of public urination:

“And then there is Kinkade’s proclivity for “ritual territory marking,” as he called it, which allegedly manifested itself in the late 1990s outside the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

“This one’s for you, Walt,” the artist quipped late one night as he urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure, said Terry Sheppard, a former vice president for Kinkade’s company, in an interview.

So, I must say, I think I’m becoming a potential Kinkade fan here. His work takes on new meaning and resonance when you imagine each cozy town being populated exclusively by rabid fundamentalists and reactionary millionaires. And there - if you REALLY look close - is Kinkade himself. Painter of Light, Christian warrior - wandering the quaint avenues - drunk as a skunk, fondling every set of breasts that comes his way, ranting about cod pieces and relieving himself all over the cobblestone paths, the cottage walls and the covered bridges. As his urine mingles with the pale tones of a flawless pastel twilight, he claims this vision of the world as his sovereign territory. Its inhabitants continually opening the coffers to pay constant tribute to their tiny, pee-soaked god.

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