Exploring Cute Kitsch and Beyond

The Nordic Heritage Museum asks if bad art might be good.
Brangien Davis  |   February 2013   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
thrift shop art
Swede notions—paintings on birch

You’ve seen them in thrift shops or at your mormor’s house: thin, oval slabs of birch painted with simple, bucolic scenes. But what are they, exactly? Fine art? Folk art? Kitschy tourist trinkets?

With Bad Art? 1,000 Birch Board Pictures from Sweden, the Nordic Heritage Museum explores the elusive line dividing good art from bad. The sheer number of birch board paintings made in northern Europe during the 20th century suggests they were cranked out on a production line, but these were not mass-produced—each was created individually, by real people who painted directly on the wood. Though now prized for their retro, campy vibe, the paintings are also earnest expressions of human creativity and heritage.

The museum will ponder such dichotomies further with the event, “Bad Art Makes Good: Explorations in Kitch and Beyond” (2/7), featuring local artists sharing thoughts on the difference between kitsch and art, Pecha Kucha style (with each presenter limited to 20 slides and 20 seconds to talk about each). You’ll never look at birch board pictures the same way again.

Exhibit runs through 3/3. Times and prices vary. Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th St.; 206.789.5707; nordicmuseum.org

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