Shakespeare may or may not have been right when he poetically answered the question “What’s in a name?” But it’s a question worthy of consideration as the time comes once again to take stock of efforts after months of endeavor.
There is a practical need to identify each piece of art when it goes on display. Physical descriptions are obviously cumbersome and confusing. To say “I like that blue painting that is about-this-big and looks like the hill overlooking the winery” is ambiguous and awkward, especially when the artist says—“ I didn’t paint that, it’s the rocky cliff near Seaside viewed from a boat.” The need for a title is clear but it can be as simple as Blue # 12.
Many artists find the process of titling so distasteful that they resort a number system. But as a viewer I find this most unsatisfying. Even though it’s the visual impact of the work that speaks with the loudest voice, a title can whisper a little secret of what inspired the artist and facilitate a greater connection.
Choosing titles can reveal something about the work to its maker, paving the way to future work. They can peel back layers the process. But it’s rare I remember my titles, so what does that say?
I paint landscapes. To me they are not just a scene or a place. There is mood and meaning in surroundings. My hope is that my work shows how a place can ignite, inspire, soothe, and heal. How its recall reminds us of where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, who we’ve loved and who we are.
There is poetry in place. I strive to find poetry in titles. But then Mark Woolley says “You could name it Howdy Doody Time and few would notice”… and fewer would care. But as a viewer I feel a greater connection with the artist and the painting when the title resonates, despite rarely remembering them.
So my task today is to title. What will they say? Will they help define or reveal a mystery? When accumulated will they be like a poem in which each line tells a tale but strung together they tell a bigger story. I don’t know. My brain is dead and I am uninspired. Oh, and now I’m asked for an artist’s statement.
Maybe the question will be “what’s in a number?”