What’s In a Name?

William Shakespeare’s character Juliet Capulet asked “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

This morning on Pinterest I found mixed media abstract art by US artist Jeanne Myers   There were several lovely images of her abstract art on that page, and looking closer to see if they involved stitch, and wanting to know more, I went to her website.  I was immediately struck by her current work titles, seemingly plucked out of thin air, like these examples –  ” Sparkling Cider”, Frayed Edges”, “Mr. Dodd Said”, Collapsible Landscape” and “Dressing For Dinner”.  I love the works, and I love the titles. There is a cohesiveness about her vision – but the titles don’t coalesce into any meaningful ‘story’, at all, or do they by their unrelated strangeness?  And does this matter? No- but it’s highly relevant when you know how she thinks, as they do tie in with Jeanne’s vision+process outline in her artist statement.  It begins “Alchemy – a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious way”  This driving concept underlies a description of her process she likens to archeological excavation, of digging through layers, peeling layers away to reveal something which is mysterious, not known or understood.  (It does not involve stitch, by the way)   She knows that when the painting has finally been revealed – the collapsible landscape has emerged – and that excavation is complete.   I wonder how she chooses a title.  Does she open a book and just choose a phrase from that page?  Does she choose a favourite word and put another with it – like ‘Collapsible Landscape’ for instance?   Perhaps she shuts her eyes while reading the newspaper and takes a pencil stab at some text? The possibilities are infinite.

I recently wrote of Richard McVetis who gave the collective title Units of Time to a group of 3D cream wool covered 6cm cubes embellished with fine stitchery, and each one had the subtitle, if you like, of something like “20:45” – this being his record or estimate of how many hours and minutes it had taken him to make that one.  I thought that was clever.  You could use the same rationale with completion date, perhaps.  Either approach offers unlimited possibilities, but what happens when you make two or more works that each took 43:15?  Do you then go to 43:15 #1 and 43:15 #2, …. ?

One of my series of art quilts I call “Colour Memories”  some of which are here,

Ora Banda copy blog

“Ora Banda” 1992.    127cm x 150cm. Collection Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden CO.

Most are named after a particular place that I’ve lived in or visited that I associate with that group of colours.  It was reasonable at the time, but as my focus, chosen techniques and colour palette changed, it seems no longer applicable.  With later series I’ve gone with for example ‘Tracks’ and then added the sequential number.  A bit boring maybe.   I really feel its time for a new approach to the challenge of finding or devising titles for new work.




2 Responses to “What’s In a Name?”

  1. kathy loomis says:

    interesting thoughts about titles. for several years I named my quilts in series (Fault Lines 5). for one of the series, the longest one, I had subtitles (Crazed 21: Desert Development). then I got tired of the numbers and went back to individual titles. why? hmmm – time for introspection

  2. Clare P says:

    & thank you for finding Jeane Myers for me!

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