The art of kitsch

Wide awake at 4 am, searching for an idea for today’s column. 

Nothing came . . . nothing came. . . .

Then I saw something delightfully kitsch - I’m not going to say what - but it reminded me of a point in my life when I had a small collection of kitsch. It was lovely.

The star of the collection was a sail/barge boat clock/lamp/barometer. Yes, all those things rolled into one masterpiece of kitsch. It was a handcrafted variation of a classic 50s item, but oh so much better. It was just as awesome as you are imagining it to be.

The hard part was being cool when negotiating a price, so that the shop keeper would remain unaware of the gem he was losing. It worked, and the thing of beauty singlehandedly turned ‘home’ into ‘even better home, with significantly more laughter’.

Many years and kitsch items later, in one of those unfortunate moments in life called ‘taking a notion’ - we’ve all had them - I took a notion to clear out the kitsch. Out went the pink fuzzy aerosol can holder, coat of arms shield, pink flamingo (alright, pluralize that), kewpie troll, cow sunglasses, Charles and Diana slippers, and sundry other items. I liked those cow shades. Wait, those might be bulls. Who can say, I'm no farm girl.

Eventually even my gorgeous flashy all-white Cadillac, bought in a moment of extreme kitschitis, was traded off. That beautiful thing had an extraordinary number of Cadillac logos inside, which was handy for those times when you’re driving along and completely forget what brand of car you’re driving. With this car, everywhere your eyes fell, there was a Cadillac logo to remind you.

Oh how I loved that thing. Only those who knew me well really got the irony, though.

Which brings me to one of the reasons for getting rid of the kitsch: So few ever got the joke. What is the point of a flashy Cadillac if people don’t get why you’re driving it? If you have to explain it, the fun goes right out the perfectly logo’d window. 

Over the years, replacement kitsch items have come and gone. At one point I fell madly in love with bad taxidermy, but never bought anything because it is expensive as all get out. That left one option, to learn how to do taxidermy, but whereas the potential for hilarity is endless, the idea of working on dead animals to get to the hilarious part makes me squeamish.

Further, kitsch should always be somewhat accidental. You must actually find the piece appealing in some strange way, and you must stumble onto it, otherwise you’re trying too hard.

So as it stands, all that’s left is a pink Christmas tree (which is losing favour with me) and a Christmas alligator (it will never get boring, I love that thing).

And, of course, there’s Katie, my mannequin, who is currently militia but has been a nun, bikini babe, floozy, and many other things. But she isn’t really kitsch, she’s family.

Wait, there’s still the Kit Kat clock, Jim’s B-52 bomber clock that makes engine noises and has a pilot voiceover, and the Dalek clock alarm that tells you you’re going to be exterminated. Still, none of them can compare to the purity of a sail/barge boat clock/lamp/barometer.

What was I thinking.

Lately I’ve had a hankering to buy the exquisitely kitschy Cadillac Escalade (I wonder how many reminders of brand are in that thing, as roomy as it is there must surely be hundreds). The mere act of trading my Smart car for such a beast would be one of the all-time best kitsch moments of my entire life. 

And I’d be laughing about it up to, but probably not including, the point where I had to put gas in the thing.

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About the Author

This bio was written by Jo Slade. As you can see she has written about herself in the third person. What normal person would do that? They just wouldn't. Who knows how many other persons might be involved in this thing, a second person? Another third? I worry about it. I - she - we - can't even keep it straight, this paragraph is a damn mess, there are persons all over the place. Round 'em up and shoot 'em. That's what I'd do, and by golly I think that's what Jo Slade would do as well.

Biographic nutshell: Jo has been messing around with words for a long time. Sometimes she'll just say words instead of writing them, it saves on paper.

The columns that appear here are of a highly serious and scholarly nature, therefore it is advised that you keep a dictionary and ponderous thoughts nearby.

If, after reading so many thought-provoking words, you find yourself tossing and turning at night, burning with the need to email me, just do it. I answer to [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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