After Thomas Kinkade died this month, art critics rushed to insult his art. Since I didn't know the difference between art and art, I browsed contemporary art museum websites, to get a feel for real art. I wanted to understand it better.
From a Dallas museum, I discover a painting of three stripes, each a different color. One art blogger aptly likened the painting to a brick of Neapolitan ice cream. But it is more than that.
According to Dallas art site Front Row, the artist subdues the entirety of the canvas with color, three vertical stripes of light red, yellow and blue and he enjoys treading softly on his painted spaces, allowing paint and surface to interact .... What do true artists do? They subdue and tread.
From the New York Museum of Modern Art, an etching: Disembodied eyes, floating with eyebrow-like lines and sperm-like squiggles. The artist works in blood and explores pain as well as boundaries. Real artists like exploring boundaries and pain.
A San Diego exhibit offers something like a map from an in-flight magazine. It features red, curved lines over a topo-like sketch. In a U.C. Berkeley Web interview, the author says this: I began to look at my mark-making lexicon as signifiers of social agency, as individual characters. Her work became a personal, semibiographical thought experiment and a response to the social space I inhabit and challenge. What would we do without thought experiments?
A Chicago exhibition includes paintings of colorful but grotesque, fiercely distorted, women. One depicts a woman with legs hacked off, and a bone stump showing. Spikes line her arms, and she wears an angry expression. All this artist's women wear angry expressions. This is real art.
On a Boston art institute site, an artist says her paintings leave a hole in the mind, a longing. Real art does that. Especially the hole in the mind part.
Real art creates and maintains spaces. It balances tensions. It goes around unpacking tools. It is filled with polyphony, unexpected juxtapositions and intentional confusion. The art critics say so, so I know.
Real artists supply museums with rich holdings and visually compelling statements and new paradigms.
Real artists celebrate rich, new possibilities, create rich narratives, use rich colors, revel in rich textures. Sometimes they are even rich themselves.
They revise aesthetics and demonstrate affinities. They engage in thoughtful dialog. And their works are always, always important.
The Terry Redlins and Thomas Kinkades of the world, popular as they are, prolific as they are, and rich as they are, just can't cut it in the real art world.
Redlin suffered early, losing a leg in a motorcycle accident, and Kinkade suffered late with alcoholism, bankruptcy and a troubled marriage. But angst and turmoil don't penetrate their works. The peaceful, pastoral scenes of happy American life remain untouched by conflict and suffering.
So real artists despise Rockwell-inspired fakes and despise those who like their works.
Catty remarks at Kinkade's death are a testimony to that. On Twitter and blog comments, he was called the George Bush of art. He was an exceptionally talented artist with excruciatingly bad taste. He was also the artist for people who don't like art, and he pandered to the tastes of the ignorant.
A New Yorker article said that Kinkade's art was 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.
I'm pretty sure Kinkade and Redlin have spent more time outside than many real artists and critics, but that's just a guess.
Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at email@example.com.