Sunday, March 5

"When I got saved, God became my art agent"

The LATimes, which can generally be counted on to be a bit more culturally relevant than the New York version, takes a look at the dark side of the Painter of Light™. Some claim Christianist portraiteur Thomas Kinkade -- a one-man art empire born in Sacramento -- is actually a ruthless businessman who drives franchisees to financial ruin while "fattening his business associates' bank accounts and feathering his nest with tens of millions of dollars."

The scrutiny comes as fallout after his company recently lost an arbitration to two Virginia dealers, who claimed Kinkade manipulated their religious beliefs to convince them to invest. Stores the couple opened in Charlottesville and Fredericksburg turned out to be financial disasters. Said one dealer: call it "Enron with a Christian twist." Franchisees claim they were undercut by sales to deep discounters like Tuesday Morning, and some even allege that Kinkade -- the nation's self-proclaimed most-collected living artist -- no longer paints the works himself.

The attraction of Kinkade's art always escaped me. Joan Didion said it best, describing scenes that depict "such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hanzel and Gretel." Sounds like his business practices may follow suit.