The Mix

The shady side of the "Painter of Light (tm)"

Thomas Kinkade may be considerably less wholesome -- in both his business and personal dealings -- than his art would suggest.
Sunday's L.A. Times ran a long expose on the troubles besieging Thomas Kinkade, the "Painter of Light (tm)" who's responsible for many of the paintings that will decorate the next generation of motel-room walls.

It seems the "Painter of Light (tm)" has a mile-wide dark side, which includes allegations of unscrupulous business practices, alcohol abuse and even sexual harassment.
And then there is Kinkade's proclivity for "ritual territory marking," as he called it, which allegedly manifested itself in the late 1990s outside the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

"This one's for you, Walt," the artist quipped late one night as he urinated on a Winnie the Pooh figure, said Terry Sheppard, a former vice president for Kinkade's company, in an interview.
Kinkade, a devout Christian who's raised millions for charities including the Salvation Army and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, is accused of decidedly un-Christian activities in his business and personal lives. A Virginia arbitration panel ruled last month that Kinkade's company, Media Arts Group, defrauded a couple by "failing to disclose pertinent information that would have dissuaded them from investing $122,000 to open the first of their two galleries in 1999."

The Virginia gallery owners are not the only ones who've filed suit against the "Painter of Light (tm)".
Former dealer Jim Cote said he was hard-pressed to feel the love. He has filed an arbitration claim, alleging among other things that he was a victim of Media Arts Group's pressure to saturate the market.

"In the beginning it was fine," said Cote, of Birmingham, Mich., who opened his first Signature gallery in 1996. "Sales were great because Thom at that point was very popular and there were limited outlets to buy his art."

But as time went on, Cote alleges, Media Arts Group pushed him to open more galleries, threatening to set up its own outlets in his territory. Cote eventually had three stores, all of which failed.

"This is not bread and milk," he said. "You can't have galleries on every corner."

Cote said his net worth of more than $3 million had been erased. Gone are his marriage, his house and most of his possessions. He doesn't blame his divorce entirely on his galleries' failure, he said, but "it certainly didn't help."
Matthew Wheeland is AlterNet's managing editor.
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