On the unofficial anti-holiday known as Tax Day, my wife and I anti-celebrated by taking in the 2012 blockbuster film "Hunger games"—along with one of my oldest friends and music associates (and his wife). At that time, HG was about to reach its fourth consecutive weekend at number one. At a time pre-dating current super widespread international and domestic piracy threats, four weeks would equal maybe ten weeks. Just a little less recently to our movie date, I was quasi reticent to even spend the money on that particular movie because of the subject matter—namely the ostensibly hackneyed premise where humans are being hunted by privileged humans for the sport enjoyed by a ruling sect. There is a popular expression: "I've seen that movie". Based on its trailer, I felt this way about the much ballyhooed "HG". The first of this story of the genre I can remember is "The Most Dangerous Game", bonus-beloved by me for (my interpreting) its use of "Game" as double entendre. Much later last century, along came Da pre-governating Tohminator, along with Hogan's Heroic Feud-meister (the late Richard Dawson); they begat "Running Man"—that incidentally begat an annoying dance move that shows up at times on Saturday Night Live when former Nicklodian'ian Keenan Thompson asks the musical question, "Whazzup with That". This rendition was great. Contrary to my misgivings and to my pleasant surprise, what I saw instead was a new work that did use an overused premise but created something new. Therein is today's object lesson brought to us by Tinseltown.
It doesn't always take reinventing the wheel for ones efforts to be genuinely effectively creative…or deemed as such. Perhaps this fact has been lost or at least muddled in the muddling trans-terming of musician, singer, and/or singer/songwriter as so-called "artists". The term educes in the aforementioned group a self-inflicted onus to be Picasso's as opposed to being deemed Kinkade's or Keane's. Margaret Keane is famous for her surrealistic paintings of cute things with hyperbolically large irises—picture those Puss-in-Boots' sad eyes in the "Shrek" films. Thomas Kinkade—at the time of his death, ten days prior to this writing—was renowned as the greatest selling living American painter as the king of kitsch. "…the king of kitsch, there's no one higher, sucker ar-teest gotta call him sire." …more on this comparison later. When we were kings…of singing God's praises, entertaining audiences, casting beautiful benign love dreams in malleable adolescent minds, and generally griot/minstrels at large, our "art" had more to do with preparation for skillful presentation, than—as Rez Band's Glenn Kaiser once so aptly phrased it—juggling and spitting nickels. Which is to say the art was the idiom, the craft was what made the show, and the sacrifices made in preparation developed and refined the craft. For a craftsman, it's all about building the best product to please the client. While for (too) many an artist, it is about building themselves to build their cult following of pleasers pleased to indiscriminately accept every lauded offering as a work of genius.
Nowadays, "The next big thing" and "Flavor of the week" are phrases that have come to qualify new things as necessarily better things. Unfortunately, so many credited with new creations have created only recreations. Lady Gaga is something new if one ignores her predecessors, namely the likes of Madonna and Bette Midler. In this regard, she seems but a portmanteau of the two. We often read about rappers who are lauded for their genius innovative utilization of live instrumental background music as opposed to the standard sampled loops and drum machines, while live bands get comparatively little acclaim. Groups who hone traditional band skills are classified as "Neo-" or "throwback". It's a way to rationalize the current acts as being cutting edge for their dearth of traditional skills, while softly marginalizing skilled players and arrangers as old-fashioned. Sadly, style is so often the root excuse for those who're predisposed to skip up in line rather than enduring the long journey of artistic self-discovery. Hopefully, this will be discovered in time…in time.
As to the Kinkade comparison mentioned early, his works were the type of artwork that usually hangs (some might say "…dang well should hang.") in motels and family restaurants—bucolic exterior scenes. Though they're not the pieces that garner high critical praise, they are what his many consumers greatly treasure, and for his efforts, or lack thereof to cater to the former, his became an industry unto himself. I am a graphic artist as well; it was my first artistic manifestation, shown in mid-single digits. At the suggestion of my son, my wife and I have begun uploading my works on tumblr.com. On this website, there a many fascinating works displayed by extremely talented and imaginative artists. I haven't seen anything there like Kinkade's work; and in fairness, I doubt if any of us will see the phenomenal success seen and "enjoyed" by Kinkade. According to reports, he was an alcoholic and (not necessarily because of it) committed suicide. That said, what he will be best known for is the success he made creating quotidian works that pleased multitudes. Technically he was an artist. Fundamentally he was a business success. Many of us are "starving artists" figuratively drawing up plans for a new wheel. There are enough of us out there chomping at the bit to roll on something new, and perhaps for this, we will be doubly blessed. But in most cases, those we see as successful “artists” are those who work from established templates that garner fame and fortune…at least while they are alive still to enjoy that.
This is SIDney Howard reporting to you from bucolic Obscuritania.
*[By American Niggling-Annoyance Standards]