What do American conservatives hang on their walls? Fr. Dwight Longenecker argues that too many of them fall for the sentimental hypocrisy of Thomas Kinkade. Instead, they ought to recognize the sincerity of painters such as Andrew Wyeth.
Speaking in broad brush strokes, the American art scene seems a dangerous place for conservative intellectuals. Take your pick: urinals on walls, celebrity soup cans masquerading as cutting-edge, a urine-soaked Jesus…what passes for “art” these days often drives conservatives bonkers.
But that is not the grim totality of today’s art scene. Beyond the Tea-Party politicism of painters such as Jon McNaughton, conservatives can look to a broad array of recognizably conservative themes and artists in recent memory.
But beware, warns Fr. Longenecker. It would be too easy for conservatives to embrace the hypocritical Christianity and on-his-sleeve sentimentality of fakers such as Thomas Kinkade. Kinkade made his millions peddling paintings of an imagined America, a happy hobbit-land of glowing farmhouses and quaint clustered villages. Such false nostalgia, Longenecker insists, is a mere distraction from the real themes of thinking conservatism.
Better to embrace the harder truths of a painter such as Andrew Wyeth, Longenecker argues. Wyeth’s America is not as chipper as Kinkade’s, but it has a deeper sensibility.
As Longenecker concludes,
If Kinkade illustrates the worst aspects of American conservatism–a sickening sentimentality, shallow prosperity gospel Christianity and ruthless Walmart marketing, Wyeth illustrates an authentic conservatism–rooted in deep personal emotion, an understated faith in goodness, beauty and truth, a concern for value instead of money and a disregard for marketing.