17 March 2016

The Name Game

I may be a minority of one, but I think artists often come up short in titling their pieces. What's the point of painting a still life with a violin and bowl of apples and then calling it Still Life With Violin and Apples?  Is there nothing more to say, another title that might enrich the communication?

Perhaps not.  

It may be that "here is my still life of a violin and bowl of apples" suffices.  But it might be a lack of imagination, a failure to see how a more creative title could add another layer of depth to the work.  In my example -- off the top of my head -- why not entitle the still life Paganini Plays the Garden of Eden?   You may not think that's very good, and you may be right; but at least it suggests a new intellectual context for the work, one that should trigger fresh associations and ideas in the viewer.  To me, it seems superior to simply stating the obvious.

Here an example from my own work that illustrates my thinking when it comes to titling a piece:

Holcomb, Kansas 1959

This iPhone photo was taken not far from my Illinois home on a late-winter day a couple of years ago.  You can see that it's a red building (a barn) and it's foggy.  To have titled it Red Barn on a Foggy Morning would have been eminently boring to me, especially when the mood suggested something much more . . . sinister.  

Here's where I want the title to lead the viewer:

Holcomb, Kansas is the small town where, in 1959, four members of the Clutter family were murdered in their farmhouse by two men -- an infamous case that became the basis of Truman Capote's landmark book In Cold Blood.  That will resonate with those who know the book or the Hollywood movies based on the story.  For those who don't, my hope is that they will want to find out more, especially when they realize that it would have been impossible to taken a photograph of Holcomb, Kansas or anywhere else in 1959 with an iPhone.

This is but one example of many from my work.  I will explore others in future posts, but I would welcome your views on the subject.

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