It’s hard to resist comparing the two famous artists who recently died, the singer Amy Winehouse and the artist Lucian Freud (grandson of Sigmund). In one respect, they couldn’t be more different. While Winehouse burned out at 27, Freud lived to see his 88th birthday. But both were risktakers who aimed to shock. Freud’s risktaking seems to have been in service of his art, rather than for its own sake. With Winehouse, the priorities were reversed.
An obvious question for Christians is whether their art is problematic, praiseworthy, or some combination of the two. I lean toward praiseworthy with Freud’s paintings. “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” his famous painting
of an enormous, naked woman, appalls many viewers. (Where is abstract art when you need it?) But it seems to me raise important questions about conventional conceptions of beauty, as well as the erotic intentions of art. And it’s an undeniably stunning painting.
Winehouse’s music seems to me a closer call. I’ve watched the YouTube video of her “Rehab,” which says “no, no, no” to those who’ve tried to persuade the singer to go to rehab, a number of times this week. It’s a remarkable performance, and can be seen as poking fun at the celebrity rehab culture. But it also glorifies dissipation in a way that surely will be tempting to others in the future.