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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Title Fight

The knockout, Leslie Parke
I've long been a proponent of the view that art should be fun, especially insofar as teaching it and learning about it is concerned. In the past, that has traditionally been thought of as doing art--exploring new concepts, new media, new styles, new techniques, etc. And FUNdamentally that is, and always has been, true. However, there's lots more to art than simply creating art. Whether we consciously think about it or not, there's the whole idea of enjoying art--our own and that of others. I mean, the creative process takes only a matter of hours...perhaps spread over a day or two or a few, or in the case of motion pictures, several months. But regardless of the time span, the best art is, figuratively speaking, eternal. Thus, except for various types of performance art, far more time and effort is spent in enjoying the creation than is in creating it. Today, we're all about having fun with art after its creation.

Once a painting or other work of art is finished (or during the process of finishing it) the artist needs to settle upon a title. I mean that in the broad sense as it applies to the viewer, rather than it necessarily being a visceral need of the artist. In any case, the "title fight" begins. This altercation takes place inside the artist's mind, often I think, simply to keep someone else from choosing a lesser title. Take it from a painter who has engaged in this cerebral conflict hundreds of times, the "title fight," while seemingly little too clever, is very much an apt description of the thought process involved. It's a free-for-all pitting various elements of the artist intellect against one another. In one corner of the ring is the esoteric, in another is the literal, in a third corner there resides the clever, and in another the laughably silly. (Since it has corners, why do they call a boxing venue a "ring"?)
Sometimes the famous image is altered to fit the meme.
Very well, but how does this become "fun"? I'm sure by now everyone has heard of the term, "meme" (rhymes with team). It has a long, boring, literary history dating back to, Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene, but in its most popular Internet manifestation, the meme is a new title to an old image. Or it may be an old title to a new image...or maybe neither one...a new title to a new image. In it's purest form, it juxtaposes the familiar with the unfamiliar in some humorous or ironic manner. Some famous paintings, such as Michelangelo's Creation of Adam (above), are just begging for a meme. The same is true of Leonardo's Last Supper, or Monet's landmark, art for art's sake Luncheon on the Grass (below). Paintings, such as Whistler's Mother, have acquire memes more lasting than their original, artist chosen, title (Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1). Obviously the esoteric element in Whistler's mind won that title fight.
My meme. What would you suggest?
Okay, I think you get the idea. I've put together a collection of famous paintings along with their artists and the titles chosen by them to forever denote their work. See if you can come up with a clever (and hopefully funny) new title for each one. This is just a fun game, there's no need to send me what you come up with, though I would enjoy seeing a few of your best ones. If you like, send them to: as jpg attachments. Oh, and try to keep them clean, or at least in reasonably good taste.

The Art Critic, 1958, Norman Rockwell
 Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1598-99, Caravaggio
The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Salvador Dali
The Battle of Anghiari (copy), 1505 , Leonardo da Vinci
Women in the garden, 1866, Claude Monet
Family of Saltimbanques, 1905, Pablo Picasso
 The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, 1632, Rembrandt van Rijn
The Kiss, 1889, Auguste Rodin
Skull with a Burning Cigarette, 1885-86, Vincent van Gogh
And finally, one of my own; can you come up with a better title?

Copyright, Jim Lane
Mademoiselle, 1971, Jim Lane


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