Art, the tester of the fake

It’s tempting to believe that, as they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Perhaps it’s even a little bit comforting? That way, no one is ever wrong. Your trash is my treasure and my treasure is your trash. I don’t think this is the case.

I’m thinking here of art; music…all of the arts. I have this funny theory that there really is an objective standard for what makes a work of art great. Only, we can never really know the answer. It’s an unknowable standard this side of paradise.

God is the great artist. He’ll know if Mahler’s 5th is better than Vincent van Gogh’s painting of sunflowers.

What I’m getting around to here is that there is much more than simply skill involved in a good work of art. This is where our judgments get tricky, because we begin to leave the realm of euclidean geometry and enter the realm of poetry, emotions and magic. And you see, even now, I’m embarrassed by that word, “magic.” Gross…

The real art is impervious to your judgement. In a way, it’s actually judging you.

Someone once said, “Art is a great tester of the fake, because it is the real you who must respond.”

Today, I randomly encountered a song by the little known artist, Judee Sill. You won’t find her on any top 10 or top 100 lists. I’m curious if you feel tested while watching this?

First off, you know you made fun of this girl in high school, right? The awkward girl with the horse teeth, funny nose or that exaggerated accent…Can you imagine the laugh you would have had with your friends if you would have found these lyrics scribbled down on paper?

On the day after Thanksgiving 1979, Judee Sill, a 35-year-old, deeply depressed and physically broken singer-songwriter, took an overdose of opiates and cocaine in her North Hollywood apartment. The Los Angeles coroner ruled Sill’s death a suicide, but those who knew her better have always contended that the “note” found near her body — a meditation on rapture, the hereafter and the innate mystery of life — may just have been part of a diary entry or, perhaps, another one of her haunted, haunting songs beginning to take shape…

When Sill died, both of her albums for Asylum Records — “Judee Sill” (1971) and “Heart Food” (1973) — were long out of print; eight tracks recorded in 1974 for a third album had never been finished. Such was the obscurity to which Sill had fallen in 1979 that no obituary was published, and a number of her friends never knew what happened to her until many years had passed. Not that she was ever any sort of “star” — to this day, her name has never appeared in the New York Times, and she has been mentioned only twice (and then only in passing) in The Washington Post. – (2006) Washington Post

And so, Judee’s song is sung, her art is complete. And if I’m right (about art being a great tester), your thoughts about her tell us more about you than they do about her song, The Kiss.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? – Romans 8:22-24 ESV

This conversation from the brilliant Sister Wendy Beckett is, in large part, the inspiration for my premise.

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