IN THE KEY OF SEA • 36 IN. X 48 IN. • PRIVATE COLLECTION
Paintings—and most object d'art—have titles. I know mine do. Frequently artists choose their titles literally, based on the subject: the name of a person, place, or thing. Other times, the work is "untitled." While understandable at times, a "no name" work of art puts it all of the interpretation on the audience: it's exclusively our job to assign meaning based on what we're seeing and/or feeling, and about what the inspiration or motive may have been. Often, no overt clues are given. Is this "wrong?" Absolutely not. It's a matter of artist preference, and over the history of art (especially the "modern" era) there have been tens of thousands or millions of works left untitled.
Personally, I prefer the creator-viewer partnership: together, we meet in-between. Typically I will post a vignette on the gallery wall next to each work that offers some insight into what is behind that specific work. For the duration of my twenty-six year career, I have given each painting a title. All of them are purposefully chosen. Many, such as In the Key of Sea above, are intended to be humorous, or to at least to make a play on words. Some are meant to be suggestive of intent without being precise. Lately more have been "literal" than before, in part because of my desire to keep the focus on the light or express my impression of the personality of the subject.
There have been a few rare occasions where I had a title and created a painting to go with it! Other times, the title didn't arrive in my head until the piece was finished. Most of the time, though, I have a "working" title from the start, and I keep playing with it—and trying alternatives—before I decide. I work on a painting on and off for a few weeks to a few months (on average), so there's plenty of time to get to a title I can be happy with.
But that's only my side of the equation. What makes art more complete and more personal is what the viewer brings to the experience. What do you think, feel, dream, imagine? What is your experience? To me, that's the point when my painting becomes a true fully-realized work of art: when art lovers have encountered it and made it their own.
Overdue Conversation • 16 in. x 40 in. • private collection
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