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Kitsch!

Updated on April 9, 2014

"No matter how much we scorn it, kitsch is an integral part of the human condition." -- Milan Kundera

Fab-u-lous or tacky-Tacky-TACKY?

What is kitsch?  Kitsch is either cutsey fun or hideous ugliness, depending on the viewer's opinion.  The word comes from the German, and sources debate whether it is derived from words meaning "trash" or "to make cheap."

It can be a style of art, a collection of themed items, a funky way of approaching interior design, or whatever you happen to apply the definition to.  Either way, there's no middle ground when it comes to kitsch.  You either love it or you hate it. 

shown here...velvet Yoda Elvis.  Ooh, that hurts, but sorta in a good way...

Helpful Guides To Kitsch - Art, culture, style and opinion all collide here.

Kitsch Deluxe
Kitsch Deluxe

It's fun, it's fanciful, it's kitsch! Celebrate the art of cool imitation, fantastic escapism, and nostalgia for late 20th-century populist culture that lies at the heart of this lighthearted and contemporary design style.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen... Start Your Kitsch!

how to get started with collecting kitsch

The trick to most things kitsch, is to have a theme. You can pick one thing and just run with it, let's say cows for instance, or you can choose something broader and do something like retro-fit a room in your house to support your collection (the family room becomes a recreation of a tiki lounge).

Yard Art - garden gnomes, pink flamingos, colorful bird feeders or animated-electronic deer. With yard art, there's something for everyone. You can collect one specific type of figure, or go for a whole menagerie. Collections of pinwheel flowers are fun without scaring the neighbors too bad, but if a row of fat people bent over is your thing, well, you just gotta be you!

The Kitsch Car - Is your car your preferred method of expression and/or rebellion? A sibling to the Art Car, your Kitsch Car can express your chosen theme. Seat covers and dashboard populations are good ways to go with this one. You can stay classic car (fake fur and dice) or you can work up something more post-modern (the all pink car with a city of pink things living on the dashboard).

The Chosen Item Collection - pick the item of your choice and just go, Go, GO! Is your thing salt and pepper shakers? Plates from historic sites? Shot glasses? PEZ? Bonus points for if you get traveling relatives bringing stuff back for you from all over. Spoons are an old fashioned collector's item, snow globes are more contemporary.

The Theme Room - some people have the time, budget and living space to devote to their Kitsch. If so, we salute you! A recreation or family room, spare room, kitchen or office cubicle is a great space for a kitsch theme.

The Leg Lamp from A CHRISTMAS STORY - Fra-gee-lay! That must be Italian...

Here is one of the most sacred relics of kitsch... the leg lamp from the classic holiday movie A CHRISTMAS STORY.

Mr. Parker: Holy smokes. Do... Do you know what this is? This is... A lamp!

Narrator: It was indeed a lamp.

Mr. Parker: Isn't that great? What a great lamp.

Mother: I don't know...

Narrator: The old man's eyes boggled...

Mr. Parker: Oh WOW!

Narrator: ...Overcome by art.

One man became so infatuated with the movie, he's actually bought the house used in Cleveland, OH and made a perfect replica of the movie setting. Visit the A CHRISTMAS STORY HOUSE.

FIND your icon, find YOUR icon, find your ICON - Leopard and flames and duckies, oh my!

Ok, so now it's down to it: your kitsch icon. There are a variety of themes, but the most important thing is that you really, really, really like what you're collecting. You can't afford to waste time, space and money on things that you just aren't nuts about yourself.

  • The Kitsch Thing - The pink flamingo is classic kitsch and so is the tiki. Hot kitsch icons right now include rubber ducks, PEZ, devils, cowboys, and meat.
  • Pattern/Texture - Leopard print, flame motifs or velvet are examples of how to explore kitsch using a color, pattern or texture. Other faves include tattoo flash, fruit, polka dots and poker/cards.
  • Celebrity Kitsch - Joke all you want about velvet Elvis paintings, but the King is King when it comes to kitsch. You just know Judy, Barbara and Cher must have countless shrines built in their honor out there somewhere. I once really saw an actual Tina Turner shrine in a living room. Whoever your favorite celebrity, you go for it!
  • Singular appeal - Is there just one thing that you're crazy about? Chances are, if there's something that you've been collecting since you were a child, that IS your thing and you should just stick with it.

John Waters Does The Simpsons

A collector's animated version of kitsch heaven

In the Simpsons episode "Homer's Phobia" John Waters did a guest voice for the character John, the owner of Cockamamie's, a kitsch and retro shop in Springfield. The Simpsons go to his store hoping to sell Grandma's "Civil War doll" only to find out it's just one of the Johnny Liquor Lads collectible bottles.

Homer asks John if all the stuff in the store is really worth money. John says yes, so Homer mentions that they have tons more "crap" like that at home. He then invites John over to see their house. Coming over for dinner, John finds himself in kitsch heaven.

John: "Oh man, you weren't kidding about this place! Well, I just love it! (snaps pix)

Homer: "Do I know you?"

John: "Oh, the color scheme and the rabbit ears! And the two point three children,... I mean, where's the Hi-C?" (looks from the living room to the tv to the kids)

Lisa: "Hi-C and fluffernutters..." (comes from kitchen to living room carrying a tray)

John: "Oh! And pearls on a little girl! It's like a fairy tale!"

John goes into the kitchen. Looks at corn curtains over sink.

John: "Oh, I've got the exact same curtains, only in my bathroom. Didn't you just die when you found these?"

Marge: "Not really. They just had corn on them. Kitchen... Corn..."

If you look closely, you'll see that the character John is wearing one of the old "Pin Pals" shirts from when Homer was on a bowling team. In fact, he's wearing Homer's old shirt, which Marge donated to get rid of it.

The Kitsch Experience - Want a genuine retro kitsch atmosphere?

Want a LIVE kitsch moment instead of just buying one? Load up that car covered in pink fake fur and hit the road!

Black Velvet Paintings

This is a kitsch classic. Black velvet paintings run the gamut from "hey, that's really not that bad" to "aaahhhh..., run for your life!" Of course, there are people who find aesthetic pleasure in both and at many points in between.

Kitsch Art History - The serious side of kitsch, if there is such a thing

Taking a look at kitsch from a more critical angle.

Tell us about your favorite Kitsch!

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    • Northwestphotos profile image

      Northwestphotos 

      6 years ago

      A unique and interesting lens!

    • MayaBella LM profile image

      MayaBella LM 

      6 years ago

      Very Kitschy lens!

    • profile image

      mistersquidoo_here 

      7 years ago

      I like Elvis, just it...nice lens..thanks for sharing

    • MyCrazyAdventures profile image

      Melissa 

      7 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

      My family has a velvet Elvis painting that shows up in gift swaps. Fun lens! Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • FunkyJewelleryUK profile image

      FunkyJewelleryUK 

      7 years ago

      I adore everything that is kitsch! I have an elvis clock with swinging legs which is my favourite piece, and I have that sexy leg lamp. I love the Yoda Elvis! Great lens :)

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