Titling Artwork, Pt. 1

It leaks out., 2009
acrylic, tea, toner, and graphite on panel
12" x 24"
Click on image for larger view.

I imagine there are about as many answers to how you title an artwork as there are artists willing to sound off about it. The process for finding a title is often as personal as the process that shaped the artwork, and there is undoubtedly some correlation between how an artist titles and the intangibles of their creative vision.

Most professional artists, when pressed, will state that titling is important. Those same artists, when pressed further, may be unclear as to why they believe it to be important. At that point some small warning bells might go off about how galleries need to sell artwork to the public. Titles offer an avenue for the layman's entry into the "intangibles" of an artwork, which may explain why there are many creators who are aggressively disinterested in titling, resorting to the trusty Untitled #____ for the duration of their career— they don't want the title to be a Cliff's Notes addendum to their vision. They want the public to work for a connection. They want more than just consumption from the audience.

I'm not going to be so crass as to suggest that titling only serves to sell artwork. Judging by how obtuse some titles for artworks happen to be I also believe that titling offers the artist an opportunity to season their creation with another level of meaning. The title can be a red herring or it can provide contextual support for the image/object depicted (or experienced, as with installation or performance art). The title might also be a process that brings about closure for the artist. It becomes a finalizing statement that releases the artwork from the hand that birthed it and proclaims to the artist, more than anyone else, that their time with this work is done.

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More on titling tomorrow. . .

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It leaks out. was derived from a tiny little silver gelatin print of a somber field that my wife gave to me for Christmas. While not evident in the drawing above, the source image had quite a bit of underexposed detail in the field that flanked the small stream. When I began to work on it however, three things caught my attention and led me to disregard a great deal of other detail:

1. The rips in the image that occurred during the transfer process were so pronounced that I felt they had to become an integral part of the image.

2. The soft horizon line of bare winter trees and bramble cut an interesting shape against the sky.

3. The stream's appearance out of the center of the field, with no indication that it began elsewhere, had a sinister quality to it. It was like the field was being bled to do away with an infection. And while that may sound terribly melodramatic, it was the impression that took hold of me when I picked up my assorted graphite pencils.

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