I'll bet most artists echo this way of creating. I don't begin a textile piece with a title in mind. Even once I'm done, a title doesn't automatically spring up. It often takes a while till I feel the right words emerge. Sometimes a suggestion by a friend or colleague will prompt them. There's also the occasional exception when the resulting work surprises me by telling me exactly what it is, so there's no groping around in the dark for a title. I've also changed a title over time as I developed a different perspective on the piece or it became part of a series.
Third, although I've been writing for decades, first for my classwork and then for my livelihood, I have to agree that it is not easy to verbally distill the full significance of a visual work. There's so much in the experience of creating it and what it might signify to the artist--how to sum all that up in a title? Not infrequently, artists rail against any kind of title because it pigeonholes them. French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) complained:
The word realist has been forced on me as the word romantic was forced on the men [sic] of 1830. Such titles have never given a just idea of the work to which they are attached; if they could and did, then there would be no need for pictures.
Titles can be sentimental as well, recalling an emotion felt during a particular experience, with a special person, or in a certain time or place. They can be mysterious, enigmatic or ambiguous, leaving the viewer to ponder the meaning. Titles can be whimsical, satirical, ironic, even obfuscating. They can be numerical as well when the artist works in a series.
Then there's the title that English conceptual artist Damien Hirst (1965- ) gave to a 14-foot tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde in a vitrine: "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living." When that shark deteriorated, he had another one caught for the same purpose. [Killing live creatures to create a so-called art project doesn't sit well with me, no matter what point he's trying to make.]
As I expressed in my last post Words or Images: Which? we don't have to choose the visual over the verbal or vice versa. We all see differently. Sometimes a hint from the artist through the title can help us to see through his or her eyes, without having to give up what we experience, even if it's not what the artist intended.
As an artist, what process do you go through in order to title your work? Is it a struggle or something that flows easily? Do you find yourself changing the title over time?
As a viewer, how do you relate to titles? Do you look at the work first and later at the title? Or do you look at the title right away and let it guide you into the work?
What titles have you seen that appear to make no sense? Have you considered them absolutely random on the part of the artist? Are you tempted to give certain works a different title than the one bestowed by the artist?