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I found out this morning that Thomas Kinkade, purveyor of sappy, overwrought eye-candy at shopping malls everywhere, has died.


He was my age, about a month younger in fact, and it always creeps me out when a contemporary dies like that. It puts me face to face with the Reaper and that’s not a comfortable place to be.

It should surprise no one that I detested Kinkade’s work. It was visual baby food of the worst kind. But it served a need by providing decorations for people who just wanted to throw something up on the wall, much like the way the Olin Mills studio at your local Kmart cranks out cheap portraiture for the masses. Some people are happy with “… sugar-drenched Middle America, with its frosted gingerbread domiciles, dew-kissed old-fashioned small-town Main Streets, and farmlands so fertile they look as if they’re on steroids.” More power to them.


That quote is from a review of a book about Kinkade. The author of said review was Jed Perl, the art critic for The New Republic. The title of Perl’s review was “Bullshit Heaven.”  It’s not complimentary, in case you’re wondering.

This doesn’t have anything at all to do with Kinkade’s “art,” but really have to wonder about a man who self-identifies as a devout Christian and then gets himself arrested for pissing on Winnie the Pooh at a Disneyland hotel. True story.


Kinkade wasn’t an artist, really. He was an industry, much like Warhol before him, and Damien Hirst today. I don’t think of art as a product but apparently a lot of people do. To the extent that Kinkade’s images served as a gateway for people to acquire an interest in better art, he did the art world a favor. I confess that I actually liked some of his stuff when I was young and stupid. Year ago I also bought a single by Bobby Goldsboro one time. Both admissions are equally embarrassing.

On the other hand, Kinkade’s popularity is to me a symptom of America’s taste for empty entertainment, the collective dumbing down of our culture. We apparently don’t want to think too much about anything, especially anything that requires any kind of critical thinking. This goes for art, news, television, films, everything. I keep hoping that the intellectual curiosity of this great nation will revive itself, even though I know deep down how irrational this hope really is.






  1. I’m touched and a bit surprised by your display of faith in your fellow human beings.

    Certainly, I’m generalizing. That’s what blogs are for. I think your two-to-one ratio is overly optimistic but I fully understand that everyone on the planet isn’t a moron.

    We will never agree on Goldsboro, however.

  2. Dude, you’re generalizing. For every Tea Party-loving, “American Idol”-watching, Larry the Cable Guy-worshipping nitwit, there are probably two or three individuals who actually use critical thinking skills and discretion when deciding what to like, dislike and hang on their walls. We just don’t hear about them because we’re taught to be all about the lowest common denominator and mass consumption and widespread appeal. If we were all discerning and tasteful, there’d be no need for critics, experts and professionals.

    And I don’t care what you or anyone thinks: I love Goldsboro’s “Honey (I Miss You)” and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

    So there.

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