Kitsch and Tell
A Trip Down Baltimore’s Tacky Treasure Trail
By Joanne P. Cavanaugh, 4/15/1998
Kitsch: (kich) n. 1. Pretentious bad taste, especially in the arts. (G. kitschen, to put together sloppily.)–The American Heritage Dictionary
Kitsch: (kich) n. 1. “I don’t believe there really is such a thing as kitsch. It’s a German word for camp. To me, it mean[s] two older gentlemen in an antique shop under Tiffany lamps speaking about Rita Hayworth movies.”–John WatersIf you want to define kitsch for yourself, go see Fat Elvis.On a Friday in March in the commercial heart of Hampden, Joe Leatherman stands in his store, lifting things out of a cardboard box. Maybe there’ll be a popsicle-stick lamp inside. Or a poodle made of shells. Or a plastic wall clock flanked by a lion and a unicorn. It gets even better–or worse.
“Want to see a light-up ‘Last Supper’ I just got?” Leatherman asks. He walks over to the wall and inserts a plug in a socket. The image of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting illuminates, the screw-in bulb glowing over Jesus’ head.
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