This Is a Title

As I’m typing out artwork labels for the next show, I’m sighing again.

I sigh because a title cannot sum up a work of art. I sigh because titles can be confusing. They can be cryptic. And even boring.

When I view artwork, I view it first. From all views. And again. Like a movie or book, you miss things the first time. Then I check for the artist’s name, unless the gallery held only one artist. If there’s a price, I notice that. But that’s another story.

The title, in my book, is just what I said in the second paragraph above. I rarely remember titles, I think for those reasons. But I don’t forget the artist, the style, palette, composition, etc.

Those titles, “Untitled”, or “#2”. Really. Why bother? Just number the artwork on the back or bottom , unobtrusively. The artist and gallerist naturally need to identify and inventory the work.

But apparently viewers need to have a title, but just what does that add to the information, or more importantly, to the art of the art?

Many titles are ignored and forgotten, with popular substitutes. As in “Whistler’s Mother”, which is actually titled “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1”. Which title will be remembered? Though the original title is more descriptive, it’s a mouthful.

Some are entertaining and spot on, though. “The Scream” couldn’t be more identifying. But still, boring. We can see the screaming. “Girl with a Pearl Earring” Yep, we can see that. “Woman with a Hat”. Why bother?

Then there’s the poser’s name. That’s more useful, at least to satisfy our curiosity. But, as in “A Bar at the Folies-Bergere”, a woman is the center of the painting. Who is she? Artistically, again, not that important. But we naturally want to know who this important, beautiful subject is. The Bar just does not justify. But again, is the subject’s really useful to the art? No. But human curiosity prevails.

Anyway, back to finishing the labels. Maybe I’ll just skip the titles on my work. Why bother?

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