To title or not to title

I am back.  

Images continue to appear.  Different ones surprise and amuse me.  Others demand  more focus and direction.  I wonder whether I should put a title on them.  Let me explain.

Titles on some art pieces are descriptive of what seems obvious.  To me, a painting of Jesus on the cross entitled “Jesus on the Cross” doesn’t really add anything to the appreciation and understanding of the work itself.  Nor does it detract from that appreciation.  But on other pieces, maybe more modern ones, the title may serve a different function.  It may give the viewer (or listener in music) a way to engage with the work.  In so doing this, the title invites the viewer into the work through a certain “doorway.”  It has a kind of heuristic value.  it also informs the viewer about what the artist sees, what may have been going on with the artist during the process of making the piece.  Let me explore this using a couple of my images.  

Take a look at this picture.  Free associate with it.  Begin to tell a story about the animal-like character in the drawing. Image Now, what would happen to your experience if I would have given this image a title of “Symbiosis?”  Does that add to, detract from, limit, contradict, expand your experience?  What about if I would have titled it “War between mother and baby Snake and Five legged Swort?”  One seems to take the viewer into one kind of experience; the other into a different sort of interpretation.  At least I think so.

Now how about this one?  Image  What happens if I title this one “The End of Purity and Perfection?”  How about “Study in Fascia, Black and White?”  Does it make a difference that I kept hearing the first title as I was painting? Do you as the viewer want to, need to know that? 

In a real way, none of this really matters.  I can do what I damn well want to do, I know.  Yet, since I am as interested in the process of art as I am the product, I continue to ponder the relationship of the artist and painting, artist and viewer, and now visual image and title or written image.  Can we understand these relationships more fully to inspire personal enjoyment, inspiration, and expanded awareness?  

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2 comments

  1. For me the viewer’s “language” determines whether the experience is expanded or limited by a title. Some read the language or color or movement or impression or whatever and words may feel coercive. I personally like to know what words might have accompanied the experience. But that no doubt limits how I see it., though it also often expands the “conversation” with the work. I try to look at the art first, then the title. I do not particularly find titles such as “Figures I and 2” particularly informative, provocative or necessary. But then, I like provocative. . .

    1. Alice. Thanks for your thoughts. As I read how you engage with an image, maybe I would do well to focus less on how the viewer experiences whatever and however and just continue to do what “I” want. That feels like an anathema and definitely not in line with “culture for service.” Thanks for taking the time to respond.
      You know who.

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