I don't subscribe to the idea that the art must speak entirely for itself. While I don't expect the artist to spoonfeed me her meaning and intent, I do like it when she provides me with a path to her work. Then I'll depend on my own eyes and perceptions to find a way in.
As you might guess, then, I'm not a fan of Untitled as a title (though I have "untitled" plenty of work in the past). Since I work in series, I typically have one title that is repeated numerically. I think a lot about what to call a series, because once the first work is named, there's no turning back. It's going to continue for the duration.
Joanne Mattera, Silk Road 117, 2009, encaustic on panel, 12 x 12 inches
a soft brush to one with a harder bristle to create a subtle vertical and horizontal grid. By the time I'd completed four of five paintings, each with a slight sheen and an almost textile-like grain, I had my title: Silk Road. I added "Road" because I wanted to convey that the series should take you on a visual journey from one small color field to the next.
Other times, as with Vicolo, I want you to ask, "What does the title mean?" That gives me a way to engage you. I also provide a statement, so that if I'm not available, you still have a path to the work. But enough about me.
By far the most poetic and mysterious title I have come across lately is The Sea Has Veins, a series by the Pennsylvania-based painter Janet Filomeno, who works in an abstract expressionist idiom (images top and below). Janet's process is physical; she wrests every rivulet and drip out of the paint in service to an almost biological composition. She happens to be my friend, so I asked her to talk to me a bit about where this particular title came from and, in general, how she names her work.
"The titles evolve from metaphorical thinking. Water, fluidity, the organic essence of life, its physicality, all of its many associations are so rich," says Janet. "The Sea Has Veins: The Delaware Series came quite naturally to me as I was influenced by the river that I see daily. I jotted it down about a year before the series came into full fruition, knowing that it would become the title for the series."
I love that the work flowing inside her studio and the river flowing outside it ran together in a single current of image and reality. Typically, though, the title is less physically present. "Usually it pops into my mind as I work on the pieces, or when I am in deep thought about the work. It is my response to the work," she says.
"If one [work] gets edited out for whatever reason (usually edification on my part), I do not re-configure the numerical order. It had its purpose and brought me to the next one."