Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Paintings make the room pretty.

In my last post, I linked to the Wikipedia article on "kitsch". I generally use this to describe art that's in egregiously bad taste -- plaster sculptures of women with exaggerated breasts holding beer bottles, animal-shaped clocks whose eyes wobble with the pendulum, etc. I want to make this clear, because the Kitsch entry in Wikipedia suffers from a case of advanced artistic pinheadism. In short, their definition of Kitsch reduces to

It's pretty and people buy it.

For instance, Thomas Kinkade (the self-styled "painter of light") is disposed of with the offhand comment that his pictures are

scenes of stone cottages, lighthouses, cobble stone streets, rustic villages, and other vistas, with emphasis on the glittery ornamentation in the play of light and natural foliage. His work is meant to be sentimental, patriotic, quaint, spiritual, and inspirational.

While I'm a bit put-off by Mr. Kinkade's aggressive marketing, the quote above could only be considered a serious insult by people who describe the origins of the scourge of kitsch as follows:

Kitsch appealed to the crass tastes of the newly moneyed Munich bourgeoisie who, like most nouveau riche, thought they could achieve the status they envied in the traditional class of cultural elites by aping, however clumsily, the most apparent features of their cultural habits. ...

... in being “too beautiful” and democratic it made art look easy, non-involving and superficial. ...

In some sense the goals of democratization succeeded, and the society was flooded with Academic art, the public lining up to see art exhibitions as they do to see movies today. Literacy in art became widespread, as did the practice of art making, and there was a blurring between high and low culture. ...

The subjects and images presented in academic art, though original in their first expression, were disseminated to the public in the form of prints and postcards.

In short, "wasn't art great back when the only folks who could have it were rich aristocrats, back before those grubby ungewisserei [0] got their grubby hands on it and grubbied it up?"

I am reminded once more why I never took a single art course in college, and took only one English course (and that to fulfill a degree requirement). The worlds of "serious" art and literature seem to be about standing around in a circle telling all the other people in the circle how cultured and sophisticated you are, and how intellectually impoverished and shallow all the people outside the circle are.

Why are you sophisticated? Because you said so, and you ought to know. And be forwarned: any attempt to invoke logic will be refuted with an assertion that our thought systems are inherently socially constructed and there is no absolute truth anyway, except that we are far more intellectual and sophisticated than you.

This has gotten a bit long -- but in short, anyone who looks down on another human being because they would rather have this hanging on their wall than this has frankly given up any right to be offended by the term "self-important pinhead".

[0] This may not be proper German, but as I am apparently an inferior man-child for not seeing instantly how awful kitsch is, how can I possibly be expected to get any language but my own right anyway?