In college, I modeled for an art class for a few days. Calm down, I was clothed; they wanted instrumentalists.
One day one of the students mentioned an article they had read on Thomas Kinkade (you know, the "painter of light") and the professor, Dr. Cameron, just about fell over with disdain. He was everything that was wrong with popular art. He had no intrinsic creativity. People liked his work because it was easy to like. And so on and so forth.
Of course I was agog. It's okay not to like his work, it is a bit overly sentimental, but to hate it? And with so much vigor? It wasn't until a few years later, when I began to see the trends in publishing that leaned heavily toward marketing and zeitgeist as opposed to artistry and inspiration, that I could understand her fervor.
However, is it possible to be a modern artist and still admit that Kinkade's paintings are beautiful? Let's leave the postmodern dialogues about the subjectivity of beauty for another day; are his paintings void of value in today's ever-increasingly realist art scene and therefore void of value at all?
When it comes to art that I create or enjoy, I like for it to be beautiful. Like, unapologetically Classical/Baroque beautiful. Music, art, prose, photography - must be beautiful. That doesn't mean that I can't or haven't enjoyed art of different or starkly realistic aesthetics. But at the end of the day, I need beauty.
People like Dr. Cameron--academics--ultimately control which artistic philosophy makes it into the history books. Don't be surprised if, years down the line, you read an article in Time magazine that derides Mr. Kinkade as a proven hack, though you distinctly remember plenty of people buying and loving his paintings. And if, at the end of the day, you get a nagging idea that truly beautiful art gives you a feeling that nothing academic, nothing in the galleries, can.