Kinkade's garish pictures of bubbling brooks, flowering arbors, and quaint village life get at an important chunk of the American psyche that most museum art doesn't. He captures, with chilling accuracy, a strangely American combination of blinkered nostalgia, blind complacency, and a ferocious resistance to change. And then he packages and sells that vision within a no-holds-barred consumerist culture that you wouldn't think compatible with pictures of commerce-free townships twinkling by snowlight. There's not a single Pop artist-not even Warhol-who got at this truly popular side of our culture, and its contradictions, the way Kinkade did.
My praise isn't facetious or knowing. Kinkade channeled a certain American vision and found the perfect way to convey it. His saccharine style, which escapes any hint of irony or self-reflection, is perfectly matched to some unreflective and irony-free zones in our culture. Art doesn't always have to comment on the thing it shows. Sometimes just holding up a mirror can be more than enough. Sometimes a mirror is a better tool for seeing than a fancy lens.
I believe Kinkade is not the fantasist he seems. His art gives a realist's view of how many Americans think and emote. His peaceable farmsteads may never have existed, but the ideals they appeal to are very much with us.