Monday, April 9, 2012
Thomas Kinkade, the self-proclaimed "painter of light" died this past Friday (Apr. 6, 2012). A full article from the New York Daily News can be read here.
Kinkade has been an interesting figure. I have written about him and his work before. Click here to re-read that post. I have never been a fan of his work, but I have found his philosophy towards art useful and interesting when teaching and discussing art. To me, his work represents an extreme of the art spectrum, and helps to define how meaning is derived through art.
When I was in art school, I had an art history class that focused solely on landscape art. This course included landscape paintings, but also sculptures and environmental works. Anything that explored the idea of land, land use, or the landscape in general, was discussed. One day my instructor brought up the work of Thomas Kinkade. We, as art students, dismissed the work as laughable. But when the instructor asked us why we laugh at it, no substantial answer could be reached.
Reflecting on this now, almost ten years later, I can say that we possibly laughed at this work because it didn't contribute anything unique. There is nothing inherently wrong with the work of Thomas Kinkade, but the ideas and information communicated in each piece were not new. What Kinkade did do differently, however, was his marketing. This contribution to the art world does raise questions and can put his work in a separate category.
The way Kinkade sold his works (original works are rare, most were re-prints on canvas or paper) asks what is the purpose of art making. Kinkade claimed that his goal of mass-distribution was to create appeal for art at any level, and that the generation of this interest in art was a good thing. I can agree with this philosophy, I think people need art, but I would also hope that viewers are drawn into the world of art and that they explore works beyond the levels that Kinkade represents.