Painter of Light verses Parody of Light

Thomas Kinkade, “The Painter of Light,” was one of the most popular and most successful artists working in recent times.   At the height of his career, people responded to his work, claiming that it gave them hope and provided them with inspiration.  Over 90 independent galleries across the county specialized in his art. Not only did he produce prints for sale, his work  appeared on Hallmark cards and catalog covers, and he started his own line of furniture, The Kinkade Collection. He even developed whole neighborhoods according to the ideals embodied in his art.

Kinkade’s art is not easily forgotten.  His paintings drip in sappy sweetness and are almost always bathed in heavenly light. The light, he claims, is the light of Jesus.   There is never a hint of sadness or hard times in any of his art works,  only the idealization of Christian America. Devoid of people, but filled with nostalgia, Kinkade tugs on our heartstrings and invites us to take part in a longing for what does not exist in reality but exists in the fantasy realm of possibility.   So, what is wrong with participating in nostalgia?  Nothing.  Not one thing in my opinion.  However, Kinkade does more than ask us to participate.  Take for example these two cottage paintings.

Christmas Cottage
Cottage By The Sea

Not only are they similar in style, color palate , and sentiment, they provide us with a perfect escape from reality. As Joe Carter suggests in his Blog Kinkade’s Cottage Fantasy, “the cottage is a self-contained safe place where the viewer can shut himself in and get away from the harsh realities of creation, particularly away from other people. The Cottage by the Sea offers a place where the viewer can enter the perfect world of Kinkade’s creation—and escape the messy world of Kinkade’s Creator.”

Successful in the eyes of most….yes.   But not so much in the eyes of those  like myself who have dedicated their lives to the arts, to making art  more than pretty pictures that match the sofa in the red room,  to making art which challenges and inspires rather than simply comforts,  to making art more than a commodity with only monetary value and nothing more. Back in 2001, Kinkaid told 60 minutes that consumers would soon  be able to “put a Thomas Kinkade couch beneath your Thomas Kinkade painting. Next to the Thomas Kinkade couch goes the Thomas Kinkade end table. On top of that goes your collection of Thomas Kinkade books, Thomas Kinkade collectibles, Thomas Kinkade throw rugs. You can snuggle your Thomas Kinkade teddy bear.” Hearing this makes me shutter from the tips of my toes to the very ends of my hairs.

But wait, there is hope at last!  An artist by the name of Patricia Hernandez has created an exhibit now showing at Diverseworks Art Space entitled Parody of Light.  The artist offers an unapologetic critique of “The Painter of Light” and   mocks his many questionable business practices. You can view more works by Hernandez at Culture Map and read about the exhibit which promises to be (at least in my mind) gratifying!

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