We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth… Picasso

The quote goes on to remind us of the artist’s duty to us. I contend that there is also a duty owed by the appreciator of art. If art is a lie that makes us realize truth, then we have a duty to dig deeper, to peel back the canvas of lies and discover the greater truth. We do art a disservice when we lazily accept the pretty lies it tells. Art demands more of us than that. Even while it is showing us beauty, it challenges us to discover the ugliness just beneath the surface -discover it, and do something about it.

When our favorite actor smiles his art at us through the medium of the camera, should we not inquire into the price by which such a smile was obtained? When we read about his untimely death in the blogs due to drugs and depression, did we not all miss the opportunity to see through the lie, and realize the greater truth? Our participation in art requires more than mere observation. Here are a few of the lies art demands us to see, and do something about:

A Picture of Health

The price of looking good

Every magazine cover, every fashion model, every beautiful person on the small and big screen – every portrayal of the ideal man, woman, or child masquerading as the picture of health and wholeness is a bald-faced lie! Like the anorexic gymnast who remains 80 lb. well into her 20s, the body suffers many, unnatural, self-imposed hardships along the way. No healthy person is as thin as a fashion model remains throughout her career. The eating disorders, body image dysfunction, and psychological trauma associated with this lifestyle is all too well documented to be ignored.

Yet ignore it, we do. We long for an ideal body that is the stuff of fantasy. To get the unattainable, we are willing to destroy ourselves, and the models who keep the fantasy alive. It is not just women. Even now, mens rehab facilities are overflowing with victims of a disease that is difficult for many to discuss with their friends and loved ones. Professional therapists are qualified to discuss the root causes. As a mere observer of human nature, it seems the artistic lie is that we will never grow old and die if we can continue to look and feel young.

But health is not youth. We can only discuss health in an age-appropriate context. The same goes for beauty. Perhaps we need fewer songs like, “Forever Young”, and more like the 1873 ballad, “Silver Threads Among the Gold: one of the most popular songs of the 19th century.

The Good life

Everybody is young, good looking, and drinking an endless supply of adult beverages without the faintest hint of intoxication. That is how the beer commercials portray it. Seldom does media portray a group of people having a good time that does not involve alcohol or illegal drugs.

Our favorite celebrities, by message and example, define the good life a sex without responsibility: “money for nothing, and chicks for free”. The good life is pictured as a hedonistic romp through existence without consequences. This artistic lie has cost the lives of many entertainers committed to telling it.

A sales person has to look successful even if she can’t pay the rent. That is because no one would be tempted to buy a piece of the good life from someone who didn’t appear to have it. Entertainers are much the same way. They are selling us the fantasy for which we are all too happy to pay. But the fantasy is often more costly for the one who sells it.

The Huffington Post has an entire page of articles it has published on the subject of celebrities with depression. It covers everyone from athletes to rappers. No amount of money insulates one from the pain and hardships that are a part of life on this planet. There is no such thing as a good life without  pain. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can stop chasing it.

I disagree with Picasso. Art does not have to be fiction. There is art and beauty in truth. It is up to us to discover, and celebrate it.

Photo from tumblr