Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What's in a name?

I am wrapping up my work for my gallery show, everything is framed and I am doing the finishing touches this week. The last thing I have to do is title all my work. But when I sat down to write the titles for all the pieces, I was tripped up. It came so easily for my show last year but this body of work is a bit different and the same process for naming didn't stick.

A title is a tricky thing. I want to invoke a story, and hopefully include a common thread throughout the series of my works. I want to include my personality, provide insight into the inspiration but also allow enough wiggle room for the viewer to inject their own meaning and interpretation so I don't narrow my buyer. I have never liked artwork that has "Untitled" as the title. It feels undirected, uncertain, lost. (Though, it would be oh so easy to keep my show untitled ...)

At first, I was inspired by garden and flower quotes and found some beautiful and wonderful quotes and started assigning them to the framed pieces. I was especially tickled by this quote:

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
-Marcus Tullius Cicero

I thought it perfectly matched my Petal Person that looks like a graduate from high school or college. Other quotes matched certain pieces and worked well together, like the Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Amen of nature is always a flower," which matched a person who looked like she was in a prayer; or the Victor Hugo quote, "The Life is the flower for which love is the honey," to match a pair of Petal People who are a bride and groom, matted together in one frame.

I glided through the process until I had about half of the 25 pieces matched with the perfect quote then hit a wall. Nothing else matched no matter how many quotes I googled. I scrapped the quote-as-a-title idea and changed direction. I latched onto the next idea of assigning a descriptive word to each one involving emotion or feeling: happiness, ecstasy, exuberance, etc. but then I ran out of words and many of the figures didn't match any particular word.

So I scrapped that idea and started googling how other artists go about naming their artwork. I found some interesting advice that included:

* Use a thesaurus
* Start by writing a very short description of what inspired the artwork. Out of this will, most of the time, come a short phrase that captures in words a title.
* Is there an underlying story behind the work? Try to clue the buyer into the story with your title.
* Look to poetry or mythology for inspiration.
* Listen to the lyrics of favorite songs and make a list of phrases.
* And if all else fails, post your art on FaceBook and have your friends help you name it!

All of these suggestions helped a lot and got my juices flowing. Then, just for fun, I took a look at this website for more ideas: http://noemata.net/pa/titlegen

Can't wait to see everything titled, priced and hung!

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