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Artist Thomas Kinkade's autopsy reveals the hypocrisy of the mainstream art world

by Brian Sherwin on 5/9/2012 3:10:20 PM

This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 19,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

The release of Thomas Kinkade's autopsy has re-fueled mainstream art world bashing of the late artist. I've observed people 'knocking' his accidental overdose on several NY art blogs (Art Fag City, Hyperallergic... etc.). The 'bashing' tends to point out that Kinkade was a Christian and a conservative -- and that he did not 'live up' to either based on his life choices. Oddly enough, the people criticizing Kinkade for his life choices are the same people who tend to champion choice -- in all things... at least on the surface.


There is so much hate surrounding the criticism of Thomas Kinkade... all because he happened to be a Christian AND a popular artist outside of the mainstream circles of the art world. So much so that some critics have had to stress that their criticism has nothing to do with Kinkade's religious preference. If you have studied public speaking you know that 'making things clear' in this manner is often a sign that IT does have something to do with the criticism (if it doesn't... why mention that it doesn't?). These 'mirror acts', distracting from the problem of religious intolerance within the mainstream art world, are becoming tiresome.


On Art Fag City a commenter stated, "I love that he was the art hero for the self-righteous conservatives." -- the comment, though not as 'hardcore' as other comments I've read elsewhere, was clearly posted in malice considering the context of the article. In response to the comment, I say -- I love that Andy Warhol attended church almost daily -- helped pay for his nephews religious studies -- and respected the concept of faith that so many within the NY art world 'bash' today. I don't think Warhol would agree with the rampant hostility towards Christianity that exists today... hostility that appears to dominate the NY art scene. I doubt that you will find any NY art writer willing to criticize Andy Warhol for the interest he had in Christianity.


I'll take this further: something tells me that if Thomas Kinkade had been an atheist -- or at least a Muslim -- NY art writers would not be 'knocking' him for his addictions and the life choices he made. If that were the scenario it would be considered 'intolerant' to criticize him, right? OR it would be something that these guttersnipes would not want to 'touch' out of fear of being 'politically incorrect'. They prowl for the easy target... and only strike if they know their 'pack' will take part in the 'kill'.


The hypocrisy -- and dare I say, contradictions -- coming from the NY art world is both amusing and unsettling. After all, if you point out the addictions that the late Dash Snow had (which 'NY insider's' treated as being 'cute' up until it killed him... and then only treated as an afterthought) -- and that he was basically a spoiled brat from an extremely wealthy family... knee deep in oil -- who treated women as drug-induced sex objects... those 'insiders' will scream 'intolerance' and rant about how you are being 'hateful'. OR they will rant about how you don't 'understand' what he was doing with his photographs and other works. There is something to be said for irony.


The message is clear: it is acceptable to point out personal flaws (and joke about them) depending on the political / social leanings of the artist. It is 'safe' to point out the flaws of an artist who happened to be Christian or conservative (any attack in that direction is OK)... but it goes against the 'pack' to point out the personal flaws of a deceased artist who happened to be extremely liberal. The death of Dash Snow was handled respectfully by the NY art scene-- not because of his art... it was handled respectfully because it would have been a 'wrench in the machine' to have done otherwise.


With the above in mind, it appears that death by overdose is only amusing in association with artist Thomas Kinkade as far as the mainstream art world is concerned. I base my opinion on comments that I've read on various art blogs / art forums -- specifically those with a NY / mainstream art world following -- concerning Kinkade's overdose and death. When 'one of their own' dies... you can bet that the situation will be handled with some grace.


The mainstream art world needs to focus on a little self-reflection rather than laughing about the death of artist Thomas Kinkade: Was it 'good for a laugh' when Dash Snow died from an overdose? What about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat -- was his death funny? Perhaps the overdose/death of artist Sebastian Horsley is 'good for a giggle'? I suppose those three were 'noble addicts', right? You tell me. OR perhaps they were shown respect because of the personal/social preferences they embraced? Why is Thomas Kinkade treated differently -- hatefully -- compared to these other flawed individuals? Again, you tell me.


The hypocrisy of the NY art world -- and the mainstream art world in general -- is clear. With the death of Thomas Kinkade -- and the response from that 'world', the auction of The Scream -- and the response from that 'world', and the sudden acceptance of ArtPrize by key individual$ from that 'world'... it seems to me that 2012 is the year that said 'world' has revealed just how hypocritical -- bathed in contradictions -- it can be.


Take care, Stay true,


Brian Sherwin


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Related Posts:

Why Occupy Wall Street makes some art world insiders nervous

Thomas Kinkade, 'Painter of Light', dead at 54

What the death of Thomas Kinkade has revealed about mainstream art critics - Part 1

Ai Weiwei Released on Bail: Professional Art World faces Criticism over Dealing with China

What the death of Thomas Kinkade has revealed about mainstream art critics - Part 2

Andy Warhol + Religion = Contemporary Art World

Art Critic Jerry Saltz and the Challenge Facing the Mainstream Art World

Art & Prejudice: Dealing with Sexism, Racism, and Ageism in the Art World

ArtPrize & Art Critic Jerry Saltz: ArtPrize receives mainstream NY art world validation?

Topics: art criticism | Brian Sherwin | FineArtViews | Think Tank 

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April Martin
That is very interesting. Thanks for your points and passion. I didn't even know that stuff about Warhol! suppose the re-writers of history want to make sure their heroes stay secular enough. I actually thought Kinkade was a terrible artist but want to be compassionate at his death and especially for his family. Must be humiliating and painful for them.

This is why I believe that demons really do exist. What else would explain such inconsistent evil behavior. It is written that one in ten fools can be saved but a mocker cannot. In fact, we're told not to even try to help a mocker. Why? When you mock, you are completely given over to evil - there's no chance for that person to be converted.

We have professional mockers on TV every night. In fact, we're becoming a nation of mockers and don't even realize it because we think it's alright to mock as long as there's humor involved. It's not Ok!

Again, it's a waste of your time to rebuke these people. I can guarantee you that they are mocking you article as we speak.

Brian Sherwin
Frank -- Let them mock. I know for a fact that some of these writers can't stand me. I'm outside of their carefully crafted box -- and content with that. That has not stopped people from 'getting' what I do... if that 'world' hates that fact -- so be it.

By the way, Brian, that was very well written article.

J.E. Raddatz
Thanks Brian for yet again telling it like it is. Now I'm no fan of Kinkade's art (in point of fact, I think it's terrible), but that does not grant me the right to pass judgment on the man's character, or even his lack thereof. So Kinkade presented himself as a conservative Christian and sold terrible art to lots of people...what of it? Both he and his collectors seemed to get something good out of this equation.

Whether or not he was a sincere Christian is between him and God. There is that passage in John where Jesus challenges a self righteous mob to throw stones at a prostitute ONLY if they can claim to be without sin with a straight face... it is this story that informs the modern secular maxim cautioning one not to throw stones when one lives in a glass house. I'm not sure the rank and file NYC art critics swimming around in a shallow puddle of relativism are morally equipped to deal with the subtleties of faith (any faith)or a man's personal struggle with whatever is ailing his soul. At least he professed to have one.

Now while I really have nothing positive to say about Kinkade's art, I'll gladly deal with a flawed human soul trying to figure it all out like the rest of us over some souless fop from Art Fag City snorting at his own recycled wit.

Brian Sherwin
You nailed it with that comment. I'm not a fan of his work either.

You said, "So Kinkade presented himself as a conservative Christian and sold terrible art to lots of people...what of it? Both he and his collectors seemed to get something good out of this equation. "


So *insert artist name* presented *insert gender* as a *insert persona/message* and sold terrible art to lots of people...what of it? Both he and his collectors seemed to get something good out of this equation.

You could say the above about any number of artists within the mainstream art world. That is why the hardline criticism of Kinkade fascinates me. A lot of what has been said against Kinkade and his legacy... could be used as fodder against specific circles of the art world.

In the end art buyers will gravitate, if you will, toward the art they admire. Is it wrong that so many admired his artwork? No. Is art only art if a specific base of collectors like it? No. Is art only art if it deals with specific social/political themes? No. Deal with it. LOL

I suppose that is one aspect of the criticism that I've loathed from the start... many are turning it into a 'this is art, and this is not' argument just under the surface. It reminds me of first year college art criticism -- and yet we have critics who have 20 years of experience (or more) going that route.

Hell, Jerry Saltz refused (he may have changed his opinion since) to accept that Kinkade was an artist... said he was just a painter. He even offered a list of reasons as to why Kinkade was 'just a painter'... and let me tell you -- that same list could easily be used against artists that Jerry has supported.

They hate Kinkade so much for what he represented... that they are throwing caution to the wind by spewing out crummy criticism out of spite. 2012 has not been a good year for the mainstream art world so far -- at least with criticism. There is something to be said for exposing ones back. I'll leave it at that.

Connie McCoy
I appreciated your article. I've never liked Kinkade's work, and didn't even know he was a conservative Christian. His personal beliefs are no reason for people to bad mouth him. He was good at marketing himself. He would stand up on QVC selling his giclées with an apron on and a paint brush in his hand for a prop. I thought that was a hoot that he actually would do that. Kind of corny, but effective for his market.
Thanks for your article. Connie McCoy

Michelle G.
Thanks for a great article - passionately written. Whatever one my think of the man's art, or his social views, he still deserves respect. Whatever happened to good manners and not speaking ill of the dead?

For me, people are created in the image of God and all deserve to be treated with dignity, love, and respect. I have many artist friends from all walks of life and belief systems: gay, straight, Christian, agnostic, Jewish. I don't judge their art by their lifestyle; I judge it on its own merits.

I agree with J.E. - give me someone is who humble and trying their best over someone with a critical spirit who thinks they're all that.

Brian Sherwin
I've been debating this on Facebook... several people have pointed out the jealousy factor. Face it... most of us would love to have the money he had (minus the negative aspects of his marketing) AND the reach that he had within the public. Kinkade, if anything, proved that an artist can be become extremely wealthy and famous without the 'blessing' of notable art critics and dealers. Like him or not -- there is something powerful about what he accomplished.

John G. Anderson
Thank you for this post. As an artist, a Christian, a clergyman, and a fairly liberal person I often feel people forget that Christianity, like all other religions, is very complex and diverse in its expression. There are those among us who strive toward, not simply tolerance of others, but acceptance of people for who they are. Whenever we put people into boxes, or devalue other human beings, even those we don't agree with or like, we violate the basic values of human respect that are the foundation of this nation. I think we have to move beyond tolerance--transcend our differences--and embrace diversity. Who knows, we might learn something? I may not care for Kinkade's art, I may not agree with his point of view--but we are all fellow travelers on the same path--can we not walk together?

Kenneth Jensen
Brian, good topic to discuss and lessons to learn from your article and the resultant comments.
What I take away from this discussion is the tendency for human beings to criticize someone else in order to make themselves look better. It seems human nature to scoff, mock, put down, or degrade someone else, in this case their art, and by so doing think that it makes them better. It is a symptom of pride. We see examples in society all around us, one group against another, just because they are different in some way and yet it is diversity that can enrich us.
On the other end of the spectrum are kind words and understanding. I am not free from guilt of being over critical and need to constantly watch myself that I don't scoff, mock, put down, or degrade someone else's art because it doesn't resonate with my taste. However I believe that as art can enrich our lives some art can degrade and tear down a society. Not all art will lift a society or enrich it and in that respect we need not get caught up in criticizing Kinkaid's art or the person himself.

I enjoyed your thoughtful article. I was not a fan of Kincaid but do think his art was beautiful as do the many collectors of his. He was a genius in promotion but he over exposed his art to the point that it became far to commercial for my tastes.

You are so right on the money when you speak about the ironic contradiction of the liberal art world. I read recently of a study that showed Conservatives were much more tolerant then Liberals of everything in general which goes further to prove your point.
I don't always agree with my liberal art friends art or politics sometimes but accept their right to their opinions and I don't make fun of them. They on the other hand tend to make fun of me and my conservative opinions with others present. It makes me reluctant to spend much time with them. I like a good debate but don't like putting someone else down for their difference of opinion. Thank you for the guts to say what you did in your article.

Robert in TEXAS
I love this artists works as a whole.He captured America on Canvas in a brilliant way, and be you Christian or not, if you have eye for beauty then you can truely see he painted for the common American not the critics. So please be kind he is gone but his grieving family may read these terrible comments and feel saddened even more.

Michael L Pappas
Brian great article and wonderfully written. Kinkade was successful, and that for some reason makes people jealous, when it should inspire them to go after their dreams too, and make them stick. I was born into a creative environment of artists in all fields, music, photography, painting etc. I wish people would spend less time destroying and do more creating, it's a far better outlet, and better for long term health in my opinion. Look forward to future articles from you...


Lisa MacDonald
I would like to offer another view of the Thomas Kincaid versus the art world hypocrasy. First, I want to add that I agree with everything I've read here both in the article and the comments; however, Christians need to understand that when they profess to be "Christian" others will scrutinize them very closely. There is a lot of hypocrasy in Christians in general and it gives a black eye to our Lord and Savior. Many Christians are not good witnesses by their lifestyles for sure.

On the other hand, judgement should be God's alone and we should all have compassion on each other. For those who know the Bible well you may have noticed that most of the characters there were less than perfect human beings but God was able to use all of them nevertheless. David, for example, was a man after God's own heart but take a look at the things he did like having a man murdered so he could have his wife!

Personally, I loved Thomas Kincaids "art", I thought they were lovely. I feel compassion for the man and his struggles and I invite all of us to examine ourselves first to see if we have the right to judge someone else.

Judy Ferguson
I personally believe that Thomas Kinkade had the artistic ability to produce any type of work he wanted to,but found his niche early on and capitalized on it. Who among us would not do the same thing if we could make the kind of money he made
As for his being a Christian, all christians struggle daily with personal weaknesses. After all there was only one who lived on this earth that lived a perfect life, His name is Jesus!


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