GUEST POST by JEREMY LAKASZCYCK
Jeremy Lakaszcyck has received awards from Playboy magazine and the Jack Kerouac Estate for his writing. His fiction can be found in the current issue of Slush Pile Magazine.
A Proposal for Thomas Kinkade (thank you chatroulette)
I highly recommend watching the Home Shopping Network at 3 a.m. It’s as if everyone has gone home for the day, leaving charge to the sullen intern on furlough from the local state mental institution. Tonight a caller chants God Bless You so insistently I’m convinced for a moment I’m hearing the frump of the broken dryer in the basement. She’s praising her idol, Thomas Kinkade, live in studio with his overdyed beard (too early for a Billy Mays joke?) and creepy Cheshire grin.
I’ll never forget my first and only trip to the Thomas Kinkade store. I bumped into a ponytailed woman fingering the cell phone clip of her jean shorts. “I’m blown away by these,” she said, eyes agape at a flower-draped gazebo awash in opalescent light. “Ab-so-lute-ly blown away.” I ran out of the store without a word, driving out of the lot as fast as I could, taking a cold shower as soon as I got home.
According to various newspaper reports, Kinkade raked in over $50 million during the same period his signature stores tumbled towards financial ruin. He’s been taken to court numerous times by owners of these stores, and in one case was ordered to pay a Virginia couple $2.1 million for damages they claim the artist could’ve prevented. Kinkade has been mum on the scandal, instead reiterating his steadfast faith to God. According to the notable names database, he’s branded his four daughters with the same middle name (Christian) to show just how faithful he is.
After seeing him on HSN, I can’t help but wonder how the self-described “most collected living artist” fares among popular culture today. I enlist the help of internet sensation chatroulette.com, a website that pairs random strangers in a live video feed. My thinking is that people on the newly popular chatroulette represent what’s ‘going on’ in the world; the people so far out on the cutting edge of pop culture they’re almost falling off into the black vacuum of the future.
I set up Kinkade’s “The Christmas Cottage,” his most popular work, in front of my webcam. The image depicts a snowy winter scene, trees surrounding a cabin strewn with Christmas lights.
After four hours of observation, I am thoroughly convinced the oft-heard ratio of 1 in 10 chatroulette participants masturbating is a fallacy. I’d say it’s closer to 8 in 10. This accounts for why the vast majority of users (hundreds) ‘nexted’ our video chat, leaving only 34 subjects who stuck around long enough to respond to Kinkade’s work. The numbers:
3 out of 34 (8%) were neutral to “The Christmas Cottage,” inspecting the image without facial expressions or comments.
9 out of 34 (26%) had positive reactions to ‘The Christmas Cottage’: 5 gave a ‘thumbs up’, 1 sexual favor was offered (in exchange for the painting), 3 commented (“nice house,” “whoever did this has talent,” “this makes me feel comfortable”).
23 out of 34 (67%) had negative reactions to ‘The Christmas Cottage’: 6 laughed heartily, 5 furrowed eyebrows (in anger), 5 wrote “WTF”, 3 flipped a middle finger, 4 commented (“you ruined my night,” “Awful,” “shitty painter,” and my personal favorite, “this makes me feel like a newt in a pond, covered in scum”).
Although these numbers are somewhat encouraging, I’d like to share this (abridged) conversation I had with a young man clad in a cowboy hat.
Stranger: hello Thomas. I’m from Maryland, where do you call home?
Me: California, the other coast.
Stranger: how many pervs have you gone through before finding a person to
Me: lost count
Stranger: I personaly lost count at about 137
Me: do you like my painting?
Stranger: you did that? with paint?
Me: yeah my friends call me the Painter of Right.
Stranger: thats very impressive. I love art. I don’t know any artists really. But your work looks top notch. Painter of Right?
Me: thanks. Its an art term.
Stranger: where do you display your art? I would like to see it.
Me: galleries, greeting cards…
Stranger: they sell in hallmark? and your name was Tomas Kincaide, correct?
Stranger: writing that down. where did you go to school?
Me: uc berkely
Stranger: how many years does it take to become a certified artist?
Certified artist? There are obviously problems much grander than my new friend’s misguided appreciation for “The Christmas Cottage.”
Stranger: I truly am blown away that I am talking to an artist. Has your stuff been in movies?
Blown away, the same words uttered by that woman years ago in the mall. It suddenly occurs to me that cell phone clips might be the fanny packs of the millennium.
Stranger: I’m second in command in my dads janitorial business. Just waiting for him to retire. nothing like cleaning a few public restrooms to remind you where you came from.
Two things come to mind: This scene from “American Movie,” HYPERLINK and a proposal to rehabilitate your image, Mr. Kinkade: 1. Throw away hair dye. 2. Paint a public restroom in all its realness—fluorescent lights dancing over porcelain, sea-green urinal cakes. Yes, even the swears scrawled into partition walls. 3. Donate proceeds of painting (simply titled “Public Restroom”), along with savings, to small nonprofit arts organization. 5. Retire.
PS: Thanks to Jeremy for this follow-up link on TK’s DUI…
(photos courtesy of the author; Kinkade photo: blackchristian.com)