Monday, 3 April 2017

Arrrgh! Me Kitsch

Pirate mug find at local $2 shop

    I think all my life I had been programming toward a love of kitsch. Perhaps beginning with seeing reruns of sixties telly programs like Lost in Space, Star Trek, Bewitched, swinging  Batman and watching good ole Elvis movies . Even the beloved eighties favourite The Goonies hits high on the kitsch scale with it's fantasy pirate props and a pirate ship laden with gold, hidden in a coastal cave with only a rocky waterslide for access.

    Toward the end of Year One Purgatory [otherwise known as high school] I discovered sanctuary in the form of Monkey Island - a computer game about ghost pirates, treasure maps, sword fighting insults, mysterious tropical islands and vegetarian cannibals.  This comes as no surprise as Monkey Island was partly inspired by Tim Powers' novel Stranger Tides and  Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which, let's face it, flies completely off the kitsch scale like a Mardi Gras firework. I didn't know it at the time that this was kitsch. It wasn't a word that slipped off the tongue in conversation with other suburban thirteen year olds.

    Fast forward a decade to my early twenties, while working in the city I discovered Outré Gallery, a shop that gave name to my madcap fascination for what seemed like false gold in the eyes of others – 'lowbrow', 'tiki', 'taboo', 'kitsch'. In Outré I found a temple portal into a world that had both darkness and sparkle. It was seriously funny. It was cute and scary. And it was great for me because I discovered that I wasn't alone in my appreciation  of the strange, beautiful and the cartoony. From here I discovered the work of Josh Agle [AKA Shag], Mark Ryden, and Nathan Jurevicius, artists who opened a door to a fantasy world that I could be comfortable with most of the time.

    Now as an almost forty year old I find myself in a $2 shop staring at a silly, colourful pirate mug that has been roughly hand spattered with paint. Looking at this mug, my initial reaction was a very boring suburban 'what would it go with?' Certainly nothing in the cups cupboard. I picked up the mug and noticed how it was not a cookie cutter design. It was silly. It was kitschy. It made me think of Monkey Island and that was all the answer that I needed. So I bought the pirate mug.