For the Love of Kitsch & its Twin Camp
“Kitsch” is both a noun and an adjective. Dictionary.com defines it as a noun as “art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way,” and as an adjective as “considered to be in poor taste but appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.” Similar words, it goes on to say, include tasteless, vulgar, tawdry, showy, gimcrack, gaudy, and cheap.
This Barbie doll dressed in a meticulously hand-crocheted ball gown is the very definition of kitsch. It is both “mass produced” and showy. I wish Granny could make this dress in my size. The hoop skirt would be more than 12 feet in circumference!
The fraternal twin sister to kitsch is “camp,” which Dictionary.com defines as “something that provides irreverent or knowing amusement, as by virtue of its being theatrically stylized and extravagantly artificial, self-consciously artless, or ironically ingenuous.” And “a person who adopts a teasing, theatrical manner, especially for the amusement of others.” As a verb, it means “to speak or behave in a coquettishly playful or extravagantly theatrical manner.”
Simply put, I love everything kitsch and camp! Here are some of my favorite ‘grammers to check out if you’ve got the bug:
@peaceloveandholidays — run by Jana Baker-Perkal, this account is filled with pretty much everything kitsch and camp but decked out for the holidays. I am infatuated with her vintage planters that are themselves a bit gaudy in that 1950’s sort of way but they instantly become ironically ingenuous, IMO, when she stuffs them full of even more knick-knacks, postcards, holiday ornaments, tinsel and whatnot.
@vintagechickster — run by Michelle, this account boasts some of the best themed collections. Need a vintage thermos? She’s got you! Independence Day — check! Valentine’s Day — you betcha heart she does! Christmas — heck ya! Even collections by color!
@thriftkitschwitch — Run by Liatra Sage, this ‘gram is filled with flea market, thrift store and yard sales finds. From vintage Pyrex to vintage cross stitch and embroidery pieces, her collection has breadth and depth.
@dianaweymar — Diana Weymar Studios is upcycling kitsch is some of the most fabulous ways imaginable. She’s an extraordinarily talented stitcher and puts needle and thread to vintage hankies, cocktail napkins, doll clothes and more. I particularly love her statement pieces, like the ones with quotes from Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the vintage cocktail napkin embroidered with simply and boldly with “TRUMP IS OVER” (yes it was in all caps, and I strongly suspect that was intentional on her part).
How about this for a twist? Check out the work by Charlie Dupee featured in ChapelBoro.com’s “This Human Way: Charlie Dupee’s Reclaiming Kitsch.” Charlie’s work approaches topics of intersectionality, untold history, and futurism in reaction to systems of white supremacy, heteronormativity, and capitalism. He’s also on Instagram @charliedupee, but his kitsch pieces, sadly, are not.
I do a happy dance thinking about Dupee’s approach to diversity in kitsch art. As the momma of a half Black, half white little boy, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that there are essentially no vintage knick-knacks that have the skin color of my little guy. Actually, forget “vintage,” since even finding items from this past decade that even remotely match his skin color are few and far between. Sure, Peanuts gave us Franklin, but Franklin is decidedly Black, whereas my little guy has the great fortune of being Jamaican-Scottish (cue the bagpipe rendition of “Don’t Worry Be Happy”).
One of the nicknames I have for my kiddo is “Baby Bunny” (I was trying to get him to eat carrots, and it worked!). I was so excited to find a pack of vintage Christmas ornaments that were, indeed, baby bunnies, or rather little cherubs dressed up in bunny costumes holding baskets, carrots, eggs and the sort. And while they are absolutely stinking adorable, they are lily white. I snagged them regardless, but now I’m beginning to think I should send them to Dupee for a little “glow up.”
Let me know in the comments who your favorite kitschy, campy grammers are so I can follow! If you’d like to follow me, I’m @thegirliscraftyy (yep, it’s a nod to the Beastie Boys song).