October 31, 2012

A New Painting: "Curves and Dips" (What's in a Name?)


Curves and Dips, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, 5 1/4 x 6 1/2 in. 


In all my years of painting, I've generally titled works very mundanely, using plain description: Right Angle, Grays, Rocks and Concrete, Red Tanks. That practice has continued with my textile and print works. I have to qualify that as "mainly", or "on the whole", because occasionally I've come up with a title that is more metaphoric, as when a few years ago I titled a painting of an open Ag-Bag Cornucopia, or a clutch handle Pyramid. Occasionally I can't resist humor, as in Middle Squiggle. On the whole, though, I prefer a simple title that doesn't push the viewer in a certain direction, but leaves her mind open to interpret the painting as she wishes. What I liked about this image, aside from the very saturated yellows, was the play of large curves with small ones, hence the title Curves and Dips (which itself is a little bit humorous). Now I'm going to admit that a couple of other titles were in the running, funnier and more imagistic: Clamp––as expressing the sense of the curve chomping down on the teeth below––and even more silly, Jaws. I've spilled the beans...but see what happens? now it's become a cartoonish image of a ravening fish. I don't at all mind if you see that painting that way (it's kind of fun), but I don't want to push anyone there. This is why neutral titles usually work best for me. What kind of titles do you prefer for your work?





4 comments:

  1. The simpler the better, just giving a hint of the creator's headspace.

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    1. I like that idea of giving a hint, Cecelia.

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  2. I like paintings to have titles; "Untitled" always leaves me feeling a little underfed, as a viewer; long, literary titles, practical, descriptive ones, serious, poetic, or witty: they each have their own way of communicating something to me about the character of the artist. I love language and enjoy titling work myself. As a practical matter, it's useful for a painting to have a name, and it's convenient if it isn't too long. My titles are often single words that I might never actually use in conversation, or which I might even make up, for example "Parantrophic," or "Chiasmus."

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    1. It's interesting to me, Ravenna, that you speak of titles giving you a hint of the "character of the artist" rather than the key to the work. I think you're right in that the way we title works comes from our belief systems. I love your made up words, which have a very emotive quality.

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