Half-Naked, Half-Dressed

(Last Updated On May 15, 2016)

It has been confirmed that the Glenice referred to on the porcelain plates in this series (and other similar series) is, in fact, Glenice Moore.  A publicity photo of Moore confirms her association with the company producing these collectibles.  [160514]

The rhetoric about child nudity reminds me a little of the metaphor of glass half-full versus glass half-empty people; which are you? Like most people, I purchase things that appeal to me and I do not always understand why at first. This was the case with a decorative plate entitled Amber. Serious art critics might derisively refer to this as kitsch and pay it no heed, but the fact that a particular style gains popularity says something about our psychology and our society and should be examined. I eventually realized that what intrigues me about this piece is that on the one hand, the girl shows a lot of bare skin, but the parts that are covered are actually quite dressy: nice frilly panties and proper dress shoes and socks. Her golden hair is also impeccably groomed with ribbons neatly tied into bows. It is clear from this state of affairs that she is getting ready to go out and is only one garment away from being fully dressed. She simply needs her dress to be slipped on over her head.

Glenice - Amber (1982)

Glenice – Amber (1982)

This piece was released by R.J. Ernst Enterprises, Inc. as part of “The Yesterday’s Series” in 1982. The plate refers to the artist simply as Glenice but it is probably Glenice Moore, a renowned painter and instructor who has had her work appear on at least 35 collector’s plates to date. It seems Amber was especially popular which may have prompted the company to also produce a figurine based on that image.

Glenice - Amber figurine (c1982)

Glenice – Amber figurine (c1982)

Glenice - Amber figurine (c1982) (detail)

Glenice – Amber figurine (c1982) (detail)

There are at least three plates in this series but the quality of the online versions are too poor to show here. Anyone having good pictures of these plates is encouraged to come forward and share. All three deal with children in the intimate setting of their toilette in days past. Amber takes place at a time before indoor plumbing evidenced by the wash basin she is using. Elmer is about to pull the chain on one of those old-fashioned toilets and Katie has completed her bath in a metal tub strategically placed by a wood-burning stove. I would love to learn more about the story behind the commissioning of these pieces.

2 thoughts on “Half-Naked, Half-Dressed

  1. As regards the issue of kitsch vs. art, being both an artist myself and an art aficionado, I can shed a little light on it, I think. It’s not really about style. From the serious artist’s p.o.v., there is an antipathy towards people who are geared towards making things solely for money and/or popularity rather than producing something of lasting value. That exists in all the arts, really, but it is really pronounced in the visual arts, perhaps because traditionally these artists earned popularity slowly and only became fully renowned after their deaths. Whereas in, say, music it is much easier to become a household name in a very short time. And kitsch artists only contribute to that difficulty because there are so many that the quality artists are drowned out by the flood of mass-produced, unthoughtful stuff out there.

    But it should be remembered that these standards existed primarily in the pre-internet era, so things have changed considerably. The field has really opened up now with the internet. What interests me more than the debate about the artistic validity of kitsch though is how kitsch has been assimilated into a wider aesthetic exemplified by so-called lowbrow art, which is something you should investigate more in-depth. I think you would find it quite interesting. Start with Juxtapoz and move out from there. Without lowbrow art, there would be no Mark Ryden, Mike Cockrill or Trevor Brown.

    From a critical perspective, artists are expected to push boundaries to remain relevant. The kitsch philosophy–if kitsch can be said to have a philosophy–is to aim squarely for popularity. In other words, it is not worthy of our attention because it isn’t aspiring to anything and doesn’t exist its own right; it is there to make money and win fans for the artist. This of course is muddled by the fact that on some level ALL artists want money or recognition for their work, but kitsch seems to be SOLELY about as many people as possible finding it unchallenging and warm fuzzies-inducing and little else. Inevitably there is the stink of insincerity about it. You ask yourself, can Thomas Kincade REALLY be that fascinated with light spilling out of houses that he paints virtually nothing else for his entire life? Or can Anne Geddes REALLY be so profoundly interested in babies dressed up like bugs and flowers? Or are these people just trying to sell plates, books and calenders? It’s possible that they are sincere but not likely.

    Thus, it’s debatable whether kitsch even qualifies as art. I suppose it depends on how you define art. Personally, I think kitsch is art–it’s just not very GOOD art, almost by definition. But how do you know when something is kitsch? I don’t suppose there is a strict means of discerning it, but there are some clues. For example, if it’s mainly known for embellishing products sold in magazines, that’s a pretty big tell.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful exposition and I hope other readers appreciate it as well. Two ideas popped into my head while reading your discourse:
      1) In the current commercial climate, some distinction should be made between the motivations of the artist and that of his agent or company who commissions the work. Glenice paints a charming tableau and if she and Glenice Moore are one and the same, I have to respect her a bit for the philanthropic approach she takes on her work. Perhaps that is just pandering to another interest, but I respect that she has evolved and uses her skill to teach and to promote a cause, not just do the same thing and rake in the dough.
      2) I meant that kitsch is instructive in the sense that it reveals something about our society and ourselves. It can serve as a launching point for making a statement or just shaking up the status quo effectively. I think it behooves a good artist who wants to rock the boat to be knowledgeable about the boat’s specifications. -Ron

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