Saturday, April 7, 2012

But...Is It Art?

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

This morning I awoke to the news of the untimely death of Artist Thomas Kinkade.

Kinkade, whose paintings of idyllic landscapes, cottages and churches have been big sellers for dealers across the United States, died on Friday on what is being called natural causes in his home in Los Gatos.

He was only 54. Just two years older than myself.

Kinkade called himself the "Painter of Light," and his sentimental paintings, with their scenes of country gardens and churches in dewy morning light, were beloved by many but not so much by the art establishment.

He claimed to be the nation's most collected living artist, and his paintings and products were said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales, and to be in 10 million homes in the United States.

His light-infused renderings are often prominently displayed in buildings, malls, and on products — generally depicting tranquil scenes with lush landscaping and streams running through them. Many contain images from the Bible because Kinkade was a devout Christian.

Before Kinkade's company went private in the middle of the 1990's, the company took in $32 million per quarter from 4,500 dealers across the country. The cost of his paintings range from hundreds of dollars to more than $10,000.

The online store of Thomas Kinkade offers a wide range of works and products with Kinkade images including prints, coffee mugs and other items.

Kinkade was born and raised in Placerville, Calif. He studied at the University of California at Berkeley and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. But his real education came from traveling by boxcar from California to New York with fellow fledgling artist, James Gurney, sketching the American landscape along the way. With those sketches firm in hand, the two were able to publish The Artist Guide to Sketching in 1982, a book that helped land him a job creating background art for animated films.

So now I suppose the whole discussion of whether Kinkade's work is real art will re-emerge.

I personally place visual artists in two categories. Commercial and not Commercial. Sometimes an artist can do both effectively.

On one side you have commercial artists like Kinkade, and I will readily put him in the same category as Rockwell and Disney who gave the masses what they wanted. Something warm, fuzzy and familiar. Then you have the avant garde artists who stretch the limit of what can be done artistically with their medium. They challenge us, often infuriate us, but most of all they make us think. Most of the time they don't make too much money doing that. Until they die of course.

There is room for both in this world. Just as there is room for all types of people.

I was not a huge fan of Thomas Kinkade until one day I happened upon one of his many galleries in my home County. It was there that I saw a print of an oil painting that Kinkade painted of San Francisco's AT&T Baseball Park during the 2002 World Series.

Because I love baseball so much and was at the 2002 World Series I found myself transported into that stadium and examined every square inch of that painting. It made me feel good and invoked good memories.

It was the same thing when I see paintings of Norman Rockwell. There is a painting he did that I absolutely love of two baseball managers arguing in front of an umpire as it begins to start raining. With the score on the scoreboard in the background.

As Shakespeare once said, or maybe it was Rod Stewart: "Every picture tells a story, don't it?"

No comments: