Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Art, Patriotism, and Other Highbrow Themes with Lowbrow Delivery

Today has been a day of discovery. Until today, I thought that no one could provide well crafted kitsch as well as the Franklin Mint. For those of you unfamiliar with the Franklin Mint, you often see its wares hawked on the back pages of Parade magazine (the magazine that comes free in your local paper), offering such items as an Arthurian chess set cast entirely in pewter. Or a Civil War chess set in hand painted pewter. Or a dragon chess set in pewter with real crystals. You get the idea.

Sadly, the Frankling Mint might be the most highbrow manufacturer of its niche market. For comparison, examine the wares of the Bradford Exchange. Good lord, a sculpture of an eagle with wolves painted inside its wings. Holy hell, that's just awful. And simultaneously highly patriotic. I also like that the everyone in the USMC mirror is caucasian. Yay whitey.

Why does patriotism have to come in such monstrous forms? What of the eloquence of the Lincoln Memorial or the JFK eternal flame? What of Arlington Cemetary, poingnant with its homogenous fields of white head stones? Or the neoclassical elegance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

Clearly these monuments need an eagle painting to, you know, kick it up a notch.

These sorts of "artwork" always bring to mind crap like that produced by Thomas Kinkade, who sells prints of his paintings for absurd amounts of money. I guess I'm not the only one to make this connection, because on the Bradford Exchange homepage you can also buy Thomas Kinkade wares. Yay! These guys really know their niche.

I really do have a bone to pick with Thomas Kinkade as I think he is bent on destroying the art world. He sells his prints for so much money because he has people brush some clear gel on them and they are now "originals."
I think it's insulting to call images mass-printed onto factory made canvases "art." He also supposedly signs his true originals with his blood -which is just plain creepy. Even better, this "devout Christian's" company has been found to have defrauded his "gallery" owners.

Kinkade alone is not to blame for the decline of good taste. The other Horsemen of the Apocalypse include Amanda Dunbar who leaves post it notes for angels, Hummel figurines, LladrĂ³, Precious Moments, and anything else marketed through Hallmark or on QVC.

The consumers of these horrible, wretched items are no doubt the same ones who oppose NEA grants and get incensed about works like Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, which I think is probably one of the single most misunderstood art works of the 20th century. If you look at the photograph, it's really quite beautiful and moving (as evidenced by this poem written about it). But since it's complicated and it involves bodily fluids, apparently it cannot be worthy of meaning. But an eagle sculpture with wolves painted on its wings is. And all the easier to commodify.

Damn it, it's time the esthetes stop apologizing for good taste! We should continue to push the boundaries, instead of airbrushing an American flag on everything and calling it a day. The pursuit of real beauty is often difficult and ugly, and it is that struggle that makes it worthy to pass on to the next generation - it should be hard fought and won.

Real faith should be challeneged and inspired, not pandered to. If I'm given the choice between Thomas Kinkade's brand of Christianity and Serrano's, I'll take Piss Christ, thank you very much.

Most importantly, if you look at art as a reflection of cultural history, any civilization that exhibits a decline in its arts is in a state of general decline. For no other reason then, we should cling to our arts as if they were the caged canary we take down into the mine.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home