Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thomas Kinkade and the Disturbing Absence of Reality

Judith Hougen (author of Transformed Into Fire) has written some intriguing reflections on the passing of artist Thomas Kinkade. Kinkade is famous for his depictions of a “world without the fall,” full of soft glows and pastoral scenes. It has been shocking to find out (at least for me) that Kinkade’s life shared little resemblance to these peaceful scenes. His own life was apparently full of addiction and relational failures.

Hougen’s recent blog entitled, “The Problem with Light: Reflections on the Life, Death, and Art of Thomas Kinkade,” has this telling observation:

The media has well covered Kinkade’s death last month: his alcoholism and drug use, financial woes, ruined marriage. Understand: there’s no stone in my hands. May none of our lives be summarized by our frailest moments. These details simply juxtapose with his work in an instructive way: here’s a man who scrubbed from his art the mess of life to reach for a world that never was, while his own sank further and further away from his idealistic vision. Perhaps, he was desperate to separate himself from his own fall. Perhaps, the Painter of Light hoped the happy glow of that wintry porch would somehow, someday, receive him.

Hougen then goes on to comment how she encourages her students to write both light and shadow, else their writing possess a shallowness that does not reflect life.

Much of contemporary “Christian culture” fits nicely in Kinkade’s pastoral scene, full of chubby angels and soft light. Perhaps that is why I find so little in these scenes to actually relate to; my own scene is full of both light and shadow, sharp edges and hurricanes as well as gentle slopes and quiet waters.

I find no encouragement from his paintings, since they are an assault on reality as I know it (Maybe these paintings could be fixed simply by adding a guy in the center of every painting with a bloody hatchet. Photoshop anyone??)

We need artists, poets and writers who provide believable worlds for real people to inhabit, like Narnia or Middle Earth!

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