Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thomas Kincaide....seriously?

Yesterday, a pundit on the toob mentioned that Thomas Kincaide, whose name is almost never mentioned without the term,"Painter of Light" being attached to it, a term which he, by the way, had patented....died of causes directly related to alcohol consumption.  His brother told the media that Thomas had fallen off the wagon....apparently, however, he did not merely 'fall off', but was sucked under its cruel wheels and crushed asunder.

His brother went on to explain that Kincaide was terribly upset that people didn't like his paintings and had taken it badly that a London paper had anointed him the 'King of Kitsch'.  This was such a blow to his ego that it drove him to drink himself to death. There was, of course, a history that preceded this and Thomas had been previously caught peeing on a statue of  Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland, as he muttered, "This one's for you, Walt".  Seems the lofty peaks of success carried some bitterness along with the rewards.

This is also the same artist who has been named 'richest living artitst' and who has a following of millions of fans who adore his work.  The by now famous images of wee stone cottages festooned in vines and surfeited in multi-hued banks of flowers, nestled by a sweet stream, with perhaps a doe and her spotted fawn standing, gazing off towards the setting sun, and--need I go on here?--are of great solace to people who perhaps see them as idealized antidotes to the ugly-ass world of reality.

Kincaide learned how to exploit this proclivity and ultimately had a veritable factory turning out paintings by the score.  These masterpieces would pass from one painter to the next as each installed their specialty item....one for trees, another for flower blossoms, another for water, another for stonework...we must assume, and finally, the painting would receive the finishing touch of a brushstroke by the Master himself...and then his signature.  The real profit, of course, was in the unlimited limited editions of prints.  People have paid handsomely to adorn their own wee cottage....or shabby apartment, or cell wall, with these images.  Kincaide made untold millions in this fashion...before he ran the locomotive off the tracks and into bankruptcy.

Exactly how you make such success into such failure is a mystery to those of us who simply plod along life's path making a normal living.  I suppose you merely overspend and buy what you cannot afford until the cows come back to the barn and there is a great reckoning.

But, for me, the real question that must be answered is this: can an artist really get away scot free with selling out?  I believe that Thomas Kincaide knew with great clarity that he was a complete sell-out, that his work was indeed kitsch of the very worst kind.  It was so shamelessly saccharine and cloyingly, nauseatingly redolent with the odor of rank sentimentality that it practically oozed off the page.  If his goal was to find what people wanted in this vein and to exploit it in the best traditions of the business world....he succeeded magnificently.  If his desire was to deceive himself into thinking that he was making sincere art....perhaps he succeeded on that count too.

But, I do NOT BELIEVE IT.  Un-unh....no suh!   He knew full well what he was doing and that's why he felt so miserable that he needed to anesthetize himself with booze...unto oblivion ultimately.

A wonderful artist and spiritual teacher that I know, said, "Only two things are necessary to progress on the spiritual path: sincerity and a sense of beauty".   If a person has those, they will succeed.  And, life has repeatedly demonstrated to my satisfaction that he was right.  But, Kincaide decided that it would be worth the pay-off to be cynical about beauty...portraying it as so much cotton-candy...and his sincerity was apparently never even on the radar of his mind.

So, he found out what can happen when an artist feels a calling to make art....and then turns it inside out and becomes a cynical and bitter seeker of money.