The “Art Top 5” Project

For all who enjoy making lists.

Last winter I learned about a project called called the “Art Top 5” in which some people were looking for bloggers to create a blog post that shared their favorite art or artists in each of five categories: painting, photography, film, song or song artist, and performing art. Making lists is something I enjoy anyways, so here was my contribution.

painting: Guernica by Picasso In the 1970’s the Guernica hung at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Purportedly Picasso refused to allow its return to Spain until his homeland was a republic. All who had the opportunity to see the 11 foot tall by nearly 26 foot wide painting in person were rightfully moved. I certainly was.

The painting is a statement against fascism, showing the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. It was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces on 26 April 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.(1)

It’s quite impossible to really select a single painting out of the vast sea of historically significant works. Nevertheless, there are certain artists who have produced a remarkable impact on the times they lived in, and the artists who lived in those times. In the 20th century few have equalled the output and influence of Pablo Picasso.

photography: Matthew Brady

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Bald Eagle by John Heino, used with permission.

I tip my hat to the photographers whose devotion to capturing the glory that is nature has resulted in the enrichment of all of us. Growing up on reading National Geographic, we didn’t catch their names but the work produced created images we never forgot. Of peers I tip my hat to the work of John Heino, who has been capturing and sharing (via social media) images of astonishing beauty.

Matthew Brady once said, “My greatest aim has been to advance the art of photography and to make it what I think I have, a great and truthful medium of history.”

Any student of the Civil War will have become familiar with the black and white reproductions of his work, especially the battlefield shots. The camera never flinched. He captured generals, soldiers and presidents, and though the brutal honesty of the camera never made him rich, he served an important role in the history of photojournalism. By means of graphic imagery it was photojournalists who helped bring the war home to the American public.

movie: Groundhog Day or Paths of Glory

I’ve had quite a few favorite movies over the years. There are simply a lot of great films. Twenty years ago my list of “Favorites” — which included books, stories and music — looked like this. At the top is a list of favorite films. There are quite a few additional films I could add, but here are two that have stood the test of time.

Paths of Glory is an early film by Stanley Kubrick that foreshadows all that made Kubrick’s future films classic. Groundhog Day is an equally compelling film with an altogether different form, style and message. Each has continued to bring rewards upon subsequent viewings.

song or song artist: Bob Dylan, game changer

There are many who would declare Bob Dylan to be the most significant person in music of the past fifty years. I would concur. By the 1990’s Dylan had been the most re-recorded songwriter in rock history.

I don’t have the data readily at hand but his songs have appeared in conjunction with Hollywood films more than anyone I know of other than pro score composers like John Williams and Ennio Morricone. From Poor Little Rich Girl (1965) and Easy Rider (1968) to Henry Poole Is Here (2008) and The Help (2010), Dylan’s music has been used to bring home just the right mood and texture in so many varieties of movie and television scenes. In light of the global reach of Hollywood, in a culture that is increasingly splintered Dylan’s influence is a fluid thread that permeates all media forms.

To be asked to pick a single song or album would be a difficult — if not impossible — task for anyone, yet that smack of the drumstick that opens “Like A Rolling Stone” would have to be among the chosen few. For more than this, read my notes on Five Qualities Shared by Balzac, Picasso and Dylan.

performing arts: Cirque du Soleil

This was perhaps the most difficult. My thoughts slid from modern dance to symphony to theater with nothing really standing out, until I reflected on Cirque du Soleil.

Circuses in America have a long history that goes all the way back to shortly after the Revolution, offering the masses a source of diversion and entertainment unlike anything else. In the days before radio and television there were as many as a hundred circuses weaving their way about the land.

But circus was not just about spectacular entertainment. At the heart of the circus was innovative athleticism, showmanship and entrepreneurialism. With the advent of television, and moreso with Hollywood special effects, circuses would have to step up their game in order to compete. Cirque du Soleil has done exactly that, creating “spectacle” in altogether new ways, leaving audiences with impressions not readily forgotten.

What would YOU select in each of these five categories: Painting, Photography, Movies, Music and Performing Arts?

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Celebrate it.

(1) Wikipedia

Originally published at

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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