I first learned of this from Martha Rosler's facebook feed. She selected this quote from the obit:
He read classic books but also enjoyed shooting and blowing up things on his ranch.
This phrase stuck with me. To me, there is a sense of violence underlying the idea of Kinkade, whose "artistic philosophy
was not to express himself through his paintings like many artists, but
rather to give the masses what they wanted: warm, positive images."Kinkade, painter of light (a thinly veiled reference to a kind of divine imperative), painted nostalgic, picturesque scenes--Disneyesque landscapes merged with pastoral views of America. Some of his work was produced in conjunction with Disney and includes Bambi and friends romping about in saccharine landscapes, always with rainbows. He spawned a cottage industry surrounding his painterly oeuvre that included a brisk business in reproductions, including reproductions highlighted by assistants that are a kind of hybrid between originals and copies. But what is truly fascinating, to me, is the collaboration with housing developers (at the height of the mid-decade housing boom) who created planned communities that bring to life Kinkade's paintings, with faux tudor details, pretend wilderness, fountains, etc. These are not just paintings, they are an outlook, a philosophy, a way of life.
Why violence? It seems to me that there is a kind of violence associated with the nostalgic denial of the realities of contemporary life. The fanaticism surrounding Kinkade seems rooted in myths of America as a pristine, pastoral place--far from the realities of global warming and the social and economic inequities that define contemporary America. Kinkade's work is dissociative, almost surrealist in the psychic distancing from reality that it entails.