Friday, March 31, 2006

Kinkade Watch: Apparently He's an "Idol" to the Women Who Sell His Work

...amongst other things.

Here are some notable quotes in the article from the critics. I agree 100%.

The critics on Kinkade

"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. The cottages had thatched roofs, and resembled gingerbread houses. The houses were Victorian and resembled idealised bed-and-breakfasts ... "
Joan Didion

"[One painting] features mountains and quiet shadows and the purple cloak of sunset, but it could just as easily have featured a lavishly blooming garden at twilight, or maybe a babbling brook spanned by a quaint stone bridge, or a lighthouse after a storm; it's hard to distinguish one Kinkade from the next because their effect is so unvarying - smooth and warm and romantic, not quite fantastical but not quite real, more of a wishful and inaccurate rendering of what the world looks like, as if painted by someone who hadn't been outside in a long time."
Susan Orlean, the New Yorker

"There's always been starter art, but Kinkade is the lowest form of starter art I've ever seen."
San Francisco gallery owner


What I find most entertaining about Kinkade is his insane ego. These quotes are quite revelatory:

-- "He denied the harassment allegation, but said in a deposition: "You've got to remember, I'm the idol to these women who were there. They sell my work every day, you know. They're enamoured with any attention I would give them. I don't know what kind of flirting they were trying to do with me. I don't recall what was going on that night."

In his email he said that long after "this absurd negativity" had subsided, "I will still be here, sitting in front of my easel, trying my best to share the light."

-- "The No 1 quote critics give me is, 'Thom, your work is irrelevant.' Now, that's a fascinating, fascinating comment. Yes, irrelevant to the little subculture, this microculture, of modern art. But here's the point: My art is relevant because it's relevant to 10 million people. That makes me the most relevant artist in this culture."

Hey Thom, I have a newsflash for you. Modern art is not a subculture NOR a microculture, that is, unless your ego is astronomically big enough to transcend the present time and space and the world revolves around you. Modern art began with Manet (middle of the 1860s), and incidentally, we've been in the Postmodern Art age for almost 40 years now. You might want to catch up. You sell sentimentality and manipulate with false comfort. Art isn't art because it's popular. Art is art because it's significantly reveals the depths of the people of a culture of a specific time and place. People love Precious Moments figurines, Beanie Babies, and paintings-by-numbers, but that doesn't make those things art.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fox News Faux Pas

The morally righteous and upstanding Fox News made yet another among a myriad of communication errors with a recent report on a serial killer--lest we forget that visual art and media are a form of visual COMMUNICATION. Just what is Fox News communicating with this video clip that is lambasted on The Daily Show? They usually offend me on a political level; now I am once again offended on a moral and aesthetic level. Could they have possibly showed a sketch of the suspected killer, pictures of the victims asking if anyone can identify them, crime scene shots of yellow tape, a written verbal description of the man or written, verbal instructions on how to avoid encountering him, or any other possibly related information to the subject at hand? Instead, Fox News chose to show the flesh fair that is Daytona Beach during spring break. I don't think I have to tell anyone the millions of things wrong with this. Someone should explain the concept of juxtaposition to their video editor. Thumbs way down, Fox News--you bastion of innacuracy and moral bankruptcy.

(incidentally, while Fox News pretends to come off morally righteous, they NEVER miss an opportunity to show flesh--it's the typical hypocrisy of the people who show you the flesh and then say, 'look! isn't this disgusting!' It is a ridiculous channel and barely above Star magazine, The National Enquirer, or Inside Edition in terms of being defined as news and possessing any truth whatsoever -- yellow journalism and the tackiest of aesthetics indeed)

Hilarious Commercials

No one dislikes television commercials more than I, but I do appreciate good ones when I see them. Volkswagon has some new ads in which Peter Stormare "unpimps" these hipsters' "rides" and replaces them with Volkswagon GTIs. Watch some of the commercials here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Male Nude: Style and Substance

This is a very interesting article about the depiction of the male nude over time and context. The two best points made by the author of this commentary are 1) that the Greeks made the body (particularly the male--in the democratic, yet, un-egalitarian culture) a philosophy; and 2) that the body as depicted by Greeks is primarily intellectual and secondarily sexual; the order switches when personal style is introduced. "Greek athletes are abstract," says the author, Jonathan Jones. This is certainly a compelling point.

Jones discusses the comedic quality of Canova's statue of Napoleon in the Apsley House--it is both sexual and absurd. Then he takes us through ancient Greece, the Renaissance, the Baroque, and all the way up to modern fashion ads by Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana. Polykleitos's famed canon of male proportions are highly intellectual and abstract; and, even though the character is muscular and nude, sexuality is secondary. Simply by the act of creating a "canon," almost all stylistic sexuality is dissolved. He points how Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" is cosmological and not sexual.

Caravaggio was no idealist. He showed people warts and all, and was not afraid of showing them in an unflattering light (no pun intended). Jones states that Caravaggio's Bacchus is clearly marked with the artist's style, thus sexualizing it. A statuesque figure of a street urchin becomes fleshy and real in form and in context/content and connotatively tactile and sensual. In Caravaggio's Deposition, "the nude has become unheroic, pitiful, and human." Donatello's David reeks with stylized sexuality. "David wears leg armour that sets off his nudity. His buttocks are emphasized. The bronze of an adolescent, hand on hip, huge sword in his hand, is mounted on marble and you walk right around him, painfully aware of the sensuality of the polished metal." Jones also argues that Church's denunciation of nudity during the Renaissance and Baroque periods only made the works more sexual/sensual (forbidden fruit).

The ancient Greek masculine figure was a mathematical and philosophical construction--almost too cerebral to be erotic. The figures were regular, systematic, and abstract with "crisp idealism." What actually confronts the viewer's feelings about sexuality (their own in particular) is an artist's particular style, not the nudity itself. This might not seem like a new idea, but Jones elucidates it in a humorous and intelligent way.

Other images mentioned in Jones's commentary....

Caravaggio, The Victorious Cupid

Myron, The Discus Thrower

Michelangelo, Victory

© Stephanie Lewis, 2006

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bolder by the Minute

Marina Abramovic, Portrait with Scorpion (Open Eyes), 2005

I found this image in the current issue of ArtKrush. One can't overestimate the ecclecticism and prolific imagination of performance artist Marina Abramovic. Provocative and controversial, there is never a dull moment with Ms. Abramovic. To learn more about her go to, or There's another good article about her at Eyestorm.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Music Review:
The Truth Can Be Hard to Take,
Hard to Believe,
And Hard to Hide

The title of this entry is taken from a Syd Straw song called "Heart of Darkness" on an album (CD, for those of you born after 8 tracks) called Surprise. My sweetheart bought me the now-rare CD for Christmas and my love for it has been rekindled. I wore my tape of it out my second year of college, so it is nice to hear such a fresh rendition of it.

Syd Straw is not aversed to truth. She is a mythmaker and a storyteller. Her songs have several combined musical stylings within each song and throughout the album. They are rife with metaphor, clever turns-of-phrase, and irony. There is a brief biography on
her website:

Raised in California and Vermont, schooled in New York, Syd Straw started her career as a back-up singer for Pat Benatar, then joined the eclectic Golden Palominos (featuring Michael Stipe, Matthew Sweet, and Anton Fier). In 1989, she released her first solo album Surprise on Virgin records. Her most recent album, War and Peace, features The Skeletons from Springfield, Missouri, deemed by Rolling Stone as "the greatest bar band of all time." In between and during all of this, Syd has maintained an acting career (Pete & Pete, Tales of The City), and collaborated with a slew of other artists, including: Rickie Lee Jones, Freedy Johnston, Marc Ribot, David Sanborn, and Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, just to name a few."

Aside from the music and the lyrics on Surprise, the sound recording is creative. People who like consistency to sound recording in their musical choices would be disappointed. She records the songs in several different locations, including Brian Eno's house, so the sound from song to song is inconsistent. Personally, I think this fact improves the flavor of the album and gives it a certain intimacy.

Song by Song:

Think Too Hard: This song has a strong rock/folk flavor and explores the problem of thinking and wishing too much and being and living too little. It's really fun and rocks.

Heart of Darkness: This song is about how guilt and rumination get in the way of being a benefit to others. It is beautiful, haunting, and melodic.

Chasing Vapor Trails: This song is about moving on from and ended relationship. It is mournful, ironic, and defiant.

Almost Magic: When there's a change of heart in a relationship--this song portrays the sadness and disenchantment with a pinch of desperation.

Crazy American: This is a song about American rugged individualism and frontier spirit. It contains some of the patented Syd Straw lines:

"...any place I hang my hat
is someone else's home....
Humour is a serious thing;
Ask the man,
Ask the man who dies laughing...."

Hard Times: This is a traditional folk tune by Stephen Foster from 1859 which she handles with reverence.

Future 40s:
This is fun song that incorporates a duet with Michael Stipe of REM, whom Straw was in the Golden Palomino's with.

The Unanswered Question:
This song's meaning is vague but contains two lines that are thought provoking:

"...In the air we are equals....
Put me out of my mystery...."

Sphinx: This is probably the most entertaining song on the album because it makes ample use of metered rhyme and is the most obvious story-oriented song on the whole album.

Racing to the Ruins: This is probably the most angst-ridden song that explores the disenchantment with heroes, desperate love, and the passage of time.

"...There must be many ways
all of us can get to heaven
without going through hell...." she implores.

Golden Dreams: The album ends appropriately in a lullaby.

This album is a masterwork of exploring the human condition with rock, folk, country, and pop elements. I highly recommend it. Even though it's a relic from my "college rock" days, I think that it has a timeless quality.

© Stephanie Lewis, 2006