From Kinkade to Moore: art or not?

Diane Cameron, my favorite local columnist, had the following (excerpted) things to say about art in yesterday’s newspaper:
Art concentrates on thoughts and emotions. Artists see underlying truths and reflect them back to us.
Aritsts grab us by the front of our shirts and make us look. Right or wrong, pleasant or disturbing, they make us think. And it is thinking that is at the center of, and the true requirements for, citizenship and democracy.
Artists ask us to see what is and imagine what might be.
Art provides contrast to the dominant messages of our culture so that we can cleary see them.
To grasp the real life signficance of artists as political agents, we have only to remember Camodia, Russia, Chechoslovakia and China. In those countries, as in Latin America, the first citizens sent to the “re-education camp” were the artists.

She quotes Solzhenitsyn: “Art serves to battle lies and preserve the moral history of a society without the transitory and debasing rhetoric of bureaucrats.”
Michael Moore and his Farenheit 9/11 exist in Solszenitsyn’s “artist as social critic – artist as catalyst for change” arena. In Cameron’s words, they “made a point about the role that arts play in protecting our culture and society.”
So, where does that leave so-called artists like Thomas Kinkade, who was featured on 60 Minutes last night.
His fans would say (and did pretty much say on 60 Minutes) that he does concentrate on thoughts and emotions and see underlying truths and reflect them back to the viewer; and he does ask us to see what is and imagine what might be.
It seems to me that there’s no escaping the fact that we don’t see the world as it is; we see the world as we are. Those who collect and admire Kinkade see a much different world than Moore. But it’s the world that Moore sees and reflects back to us that is destroying any chance of idylls such as Kinkade envisions and his fans wish for.
I don’t really have anything against escaping into idyllic fantasies. As matter of fact, I’ve just discovered a whole new genre of “romance” novels that are set in the future and have kick-ass female protagonists. (Check out this one and this one and any of J.D. Robb’s “…. In Death” series. ) And, while I’ve never particularly found typical romance novels at all interesting, these offer a whole new escape hatch.
But I certainly wouldn’t consider them literature, just as I wouldn’t consider Thomas Kinkade an artist or any kind of catalyst for social change. What a world. What a world.

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