Keeping it Kitsch: New NEHMA exhibit focuses on common items


“Kitsch” is the key word at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art’s new exhibit, which opened to the public on Jan. 23.

The exhibit, “A Matter of Taste: Art, Kitsch and Culture” surveys a broad range of what people would define as “kitschy,” or something common that might be found in homes or offices, but is beautiful nonetheless.

“There are some artists that are directly influenced by kitsch objects and use them in their work,” Dalton said. “From our collection, mainly, are works that the artist is mainly using a kitsch aesthetic or playing with aspects of kitsch in their own work.”

The word “kitsch” can have a subjective meaning, she said.

“The way I would define kitsch or the way you might define kitsch could be very different,” Dalton said. “To my mind kitsch is typically a decorative a form, not necessarily a functional form, though it could be something decorative on something functional. It could be a Precious Moments figurine, it could be a Christmas village made of ceramic houses that light up or a shot glass with a picture of the temple on it.”

Because kitsch art involves items that make up everyday life, it relates more to individuals, Dalton said.

“There’s this idea that kitsch items are accessible to the general public, whereas fine art generally isn’t,” Dalton said.

Kerrilyn Andersen, a freshman majoring in music therapy, said, “The abstract kitsch invited a lot of self-exploration and reflection. It brought up a lot of personal experiences that helped you understand the tone and emotions behind the work, even though you may not understand the exact story behind the piece itself.”

The exhibit is close to the heart of Frank McEntire, one of the collaborators on the exhibit.

“The object finds you,” McEntire said. “It speaks to you and it finds you and all of a sudden it initiates this little dialogue.”

The exhibit was co-curated by David Wall, a professor in the art department, and museum curators Katie Lee Koven and Beckie Durham. It will be open to the public until May 7.

Everyone can appreciate something from the exhibit, McEntire said.

“Everything here is something we have experienced, or something we have laughed at,” he said.