Is this art tacky?
October 12, 2010 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Is this art tacky? Don't let me buy something that will be the next painter of light.
posted by joey blank to Society & Culture (29 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

I have one of those spraypaint art planetscapes up in my living room. It may be tacky; I don't care. I like it. That seems to be to be the best criteria.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:28 PM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

When it comes down to it, the only thing that really matters is whether or not you like it. That, and not getting caught up in painter-of-light style investment scams.
posted by pickypicky at 7:29 PM on October 12, 2010

Some people will think it's tacky, some will love it. That's true of almost all art, I think. Buy what speaks to you.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:32 PM on October 12, 2010

It's very subjective, but I clicked through some of his "panel paintings" and my personal opinion is yes, it's a bit cheesy. The designs remind me of stuff you would see on a t-shirt at Urban Outfitters.

There's nothing really "wrong" with it; I just think you could dig around Etsy and find stuff by unknown artists with a little more heart.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:33 PM on October 12, 2010 [16 favorites]

If it makes you happy, if it says something to you, get it.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:37 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Etsy suggestion.

Personally, it always depends on where I'm putting a painting or a piece of photography up. Do you have a big house? A cosy apartment? Is this going to be the focal point of a room? Does it match the rest of your decor?

For what it's worth, I think it's a little too country-shabby for any house that doesn't have decor to match, and even then, if your decor DOES match, you may end up having a room that looks rather like one of those nouveau-antique stores you sometimes see in small towns.

Just sayin'. But if you like it, more power to you. :)
posted by patronuscharms at 7:38 PM on October 12, 2010

I often find myself having the same dilemma.

For example, about a year ago I pointed out a t-shirt that I thought was neat and kind of Threadless-y, which had a design of a headstone and a lot of Photoshop distressing-style effects, plus some little tattoo-y flourishy things.

I was informed, in no uncertain terms, that it was "a bullshit douchebag Ed Hardy knockoff" kind of shirt.

The shirt's design had obviously touched a nerve. Never having heard of Ed Hardy, I looked it up, and found that it was a kind of design aesthetic that honestly I sort of liked. But douchebag Jersey Shore-style assholes had latched onto it. And now, by the process of commutation, Ed Hardy style designs == "douchebag asshole."

I have had to learn this lesson repeatedly. If you care, and you may not always, the question to ask is, "Who ELSE likes this art?"

In the case of Thomas Kinkade, the answer is "prim, saccharine, sanctimonious people like Angela on The Office, Glenn Beck, or Ned Flanders." If you put up a Kinkade print, you risk being taken for one of those people. Even if you take pains to make clear that it's an ironic thing, people will still secretly assume that you like it.

So in the case of the art you're looking at, I would try and figure out who else likes it. My gut sense is that it appeals to twee hipster folk. That's not the worst thing in the world.

But it should be said that any art which definitely appeals to one sort of person or the other probably has a limited shelf life.
posted by ErikaB at 7:40 PM on October 12, 2010 [29 favorites]

Art is subjective, and get something that gives you a warm fuzzy.

I looked at a few of his pieces (only a few), and this is what struck me: he frames in the center of his compositions, without giving the eye a chance to travel naturally out of the edge. Hmm. That may be worded wrong/confusing. Many of his subjects are centered in the middle of the piece. He has put borders around his pieces, framing them in the composition. That makes it hard for the eye to travel around looking at the piece naturally, like having brakes on all the borders.
posted by annsunny at 7:42 PM on October 12, 2010

I think it's fun, and personally I'd enjoy looking at it on someone's wall. I wouldn't find it tacky--but even if I did, that would be ok. Art that makes you happy is a worthy investment, even if it's Thomas Kinkade and even if other people think it's tacky.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:49 PM on October 12, 2010

I'm in Chicago, and I've seen him at street fairs for the last 4-5 years along with his partner. His stuff was always pretty popular (his booths were packed), and I've always liked it, although not as much as my wife who REALLY likes it. At one of the fairs she actually got in a conversation with his partner about some old wooden boxes we had that might be good in his multimedia.

Over the last few years his stuff has started showing up in more and more places. It's probably a combination of good art, good business, and a good fit with the current market/taste. They seem very serious about making a real business out of it. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get much bigger over the next few years, but I don't see any kind of assembly-line approach yet, if that's your main worry.

We have one medium sized canvas print in our dining room and I* always enjoy looking at it. Our house is ~100 years old with a lot of original but not ornate trim and big radiators, so it doesn't feel entirely out of place. Picture on request if you'd like to see one on an actual wall.

*not a hipster, not that there's anything wrong with it. Although I do mock sometimes.
posted by true at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2010

I think there are a lot of clues about this artist's ambition to enlarge and commercialize his business in his FAQ, so if you're the type of person who would be unhappy owning something that will eventually be available in the Lillian Vernon catalog, this may not be the best place to look.

I also think that his stuff is very representative of the "birds & words" collages you see everywhere nowadays, and will probably be forever linked to the 2008-2010 hipster aesthetic, sort of like Shag's stuff screams 2005.

All that snottiness aside, if there's a piece you like looking at, go ahead and buy it. There are definitely worse things to do with your money than buy art that makes you happy!
posted by apparently at 7:55 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, one more thing. Back when I first saw his stuff (maybe 2005?) I was fairly down on buying anything, since I could see pretty quickly how popular it was and kind of had a feeling that either his pieces or ones with a similar aesthetic would be everywhere in a few years. After a while Mrs True convinced me that was stupid, and if we liked something we should just buy it and put it on the wall. That, plus there was a new years day 25% off sale at a local gallery.

I wouldn't build a room around it, but it's nice to look at.
posted by true at 8:01 PM on October 12, 2010

I'm pretty sure that I have seen some of his stuff ON Etsy, specifically the birds in the cattails.
posted by amber_dale at 8:03 PM on October 12, 2010

Yep. I think it's tacky. But if you like it, who cares?
posted by Weng at 8:10 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like it. It's very of a moment, and I wouldn't necessarily build an entire room around it, but if it fit in a room I already had (and it does for me, honestly, and I find it really interesting), I'd buy a piece. It's cool with me if something evokes a specific time and place in culture, I don't need everything I own to be timeless.
posted by padraigin at 8:17 PM on October 12, 2010

It's quite tasteful. I like tacky better.
posted by citron at 8:35 PM on October 12, 2010

What others have said, as far as "choose it 'cause ya' like it," etc. But I'd add, whatever art work you buy, consider it in relation to your decor in the rest of the room. I've seen living spaces with expensive art pieces that looked like crap because no one had paid attention to the overall effect. Just because it's "stylish," however you choose to define that term, is not the final word on how/whether a piece contributes to the feel of the space as a whole.
posted by 5Q7 at 8:45 PM on October 12, 2010

I think if you have to ask if it's tacky, odds are good a part of you feels it is. It doesn't really matter whether or not it "actually" is (quotes because it's all subjective anyway), but I say life's too short for art you don't fall completely in love with.
posted by vienaragis at 10:25 PM on October 12, 2010

This is one of the benefits of buying original art that you like from relatively unknown artists; you will never run into that same piece of art elsewhere, and so you don't have to worry about whomever else might be consuming it. Avoid prints and highly marketed, prolific artists, and you can go back to concentrating on what matters: buying art you like.
posted by davejay at 10:45 PM on October 12, 2010

For me, thumbs down I guess, though that's not exactly what you asked. If it were music I'd say it's not a faux-pas of Kenny G proportions, but it is pretty assembly- line. It's Dave Matthews. No, wait... it's someone who sounds like Dave Matthews.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 11:32 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't call it cheesy or tacky, just collage-y and derivative in its distressedness. Jeff Koons is derivative, (later) Robert Rauschenberg is collage-y, so we see that history tells us you can do what you will. I figure it's similar to liking Belle & Sebastian and not knowing who Pilot was, which is certainly not a crime. Someone else is buying a punk-rock flavored version in Seattle right now and it's gonna look great in their apartment.
posted by rhizome at 11:57 PM on October 12, 2010

I wouldn't categorize it as tacky; more like "twee as all fuck." Very Anthropologie. Some of the individual pieces I really like and would put on my own wall, but the overall collection is too saccharine-passerine for me.

If it's a collage you're after, would you be interested in buying a pre-stretched canvas at Michael's and making your own? You might have to hunt around for appropriate images so it doesn't look all high-school yearbook, but it could be a really fun project.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:45 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

OP, I love art. I'm not going to give you my opinion on this particular piece--not because it's a negative opinion, but because of some advice I was given by a wine aficionado--and by aficionado, I mean 'person who has had everything from a $5 bottle of Little Penguin to the occasional $6,000 bottle.'*

Art is like wine in that there is both an objective and subjective component to evaluating it: there's great; there's good; there's mediocre; and there's flat-out bad.

At the end of the day, though, you drink what you like, and that's what matters. If people sniff at you for liking your $5 mass-produced Shiraz or your trendy Western collage print, then they're more invested in judging your taste as inferior than they are in allowing someone else to enjoy something they enjoy. People who sincerely appreciate that you enjoy a piece might say 'Oh, hey if you like X, you could try Y as well' without sniffing into their gallery opening schedules or indicating that there's something wrong with X.

They play the 'Yes, and...' improv game with you, not the 'No.' Because one way of communicating about taste and creative works when you have a strong foundation in the field is to help expand and complement someone's enjoyment of a medium you also enjoy, and the other shuts it down. One is about forging community and bringing people in, and the other is about forging a community by keeping other people out.

tl; dr--buy it if it's what you want. Use it as a way to explore what you enjoy. What parts of it appeal to you? Maybe other people can point you to other artists who do work that reflects those aesthetic qualities. Maybe you'll like them better. Maybe you won't. Your taste is allowed to change over time. Or maybe you'll still like it. It's about what improves your life for you.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:33 AM on October 13, 2010 [8 favorites]

Will you really be able to enjoy it if you find yourself occasionally wondering if it's tacky?

Also, these are some of my favorite Etsy shops:
Bridget Farmer Prints
Miniature Trapdoor
Britt Hermann
Herself Surprised
Becca Stadtlander
Justin Durand
posted by smirkyfodder at 7:20 AM on October 13, 2010

Can you imagine it on a hotel room wall? No? Then you're golden.
posted by Evangeline at 7:32 AM on October 13, 2010

To go off in a different direction from my earlier comment: whether you're creating something with aesthetic appeal or buying it, it's difficult to be completely original. Just about every artist, craftsperson, and designer is influenced by their contemporaries and by current trends to some degree, whether they're conscious of it or not.

And the more stuff you look at, the more it starts to look the same. I get the same feeling as you when I look at Etsy for too long: I start out really liking something, and then I just get saturated with the theme and I'm soooo tired of all those steampunk bees and pleated hobo purses and laser-cut acrylic "Nerd" necklaces and other things I've never even seen on a living person.

If you want anything pretty or interesting in your life, at some point you have to ignore whether or not what you like is cool, tacky, hipstery, etc. and just go for it.

I stand by my DIY collage suggestion, though, because that sounds like fun.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:22 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

To add one more consideration - the site is well-done (for an artist) so he definitely has strength in marketing himself, and if you look more in-depth at a piece like this, you can see that he has done more versions here. He is obviously committed to making art as a career, and if what true said is, in fact, um, true, then he is starting to pick up in popularity. All of those things point to this artist having a strong future. From an investment perspective, this makes him much more attractive.

Art should never be an investment, of course, and if someone tells you to buy a piece as an investment, they are obviously lying and you should call them on it. Look at the old Sears catalog that sold Picasso prints, those are worth pretty much the same today as they were back in the 60s. For established artists you will never ever recoup a ROI. For younger artists, there is a much greater potential to have a piece rise in value. Sure, you're taking a chance, but the thing to remember is that you're taking a chance on a piece of art that you love AND most important, you're supporting local artists. Helping them out, it is hard to go wrong.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:04 AM on October 13, 2010

I was thinking about this question all night! Obviously part of you likes it, and part of you thinks it might be too tacky/trendy/hipsterrific/whatever. I think what you want to do is really buckle down and figure out what it is you like about this art. Then find something that does it better.

For example, is it the collaged aspect? The color palette? Does the artwork invoke a particular feeling in you? Does it remind you of a particular time or place?

Try mentally changing things about it, and seeing if you still like it. Ask yourself, "If this was in black and white, would I still like it? What if it was all hand-drawn, instead of collaged?" This can help you narrow down what it is you like.

Once you figure that out, another AskMe "find me art that is ____" will generate more awesome leads than you could imagine.

And in line with my earlier comment, I definitely want to emphasize "buy what you like, and damn the haters." I fell in Love At First Sight with an illustration print at an art festival a few years ago.

Is it twee? I don't know. I don't care. I love him. I framed it, and named him Pauly Walnuts Whiskers McIntyre III, and hung it where I would walk past it and smile several times a day.
posted by ErikaB at 11:53 AM on October 13, 2010

He is the Hipster Kincade. So yes--painter of light.

His work is an amalgam of hipster record covers and art school experimentation, sort of a refined/developed version of what half my artist friends worked on when they were younger and what half of my former-artist friends worked on until they stopped being artists.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:08 AM on October 14, 2010

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