Titling Artwork: a History of Conventions in a Modern World

I titled this blog post, I title my paintings, I title my papers. Why do we as humans feel the need to label and title people, objects, and concepts? Going off of this, I plan to create a podcast for other artists or curious members of the art world surrounding the idea of titling artwork and why this may or may not be conventional in different spheres.

Within my art practice, I have struggled with the decision of whether or not to title my work. As a general rule, I title my work to help me organize it and to give the viewer some concept to chew on, but something about titling my work has always felt unnatural. It’s a painting, choose to look at it or not.

I want to then take a historical approach that looks at both famous painters who do title their work and famous painters who leave their work untitled. Monet created a series of water-lily paintings of the same pond over different parts of the year. He titled those works “Water-Lilies” followed by the number of the series. For example, “Water-Lilies 29.” His other works (and many artists from the impressionist era) titled their works based on the place that they were painting. Contrastingly, many artists today don’t title their works or they choose to construct titles based on abstract concepts (which is primarily what I do in my practice). These can play an important role in the way that we as viewers see the work.

In this podcast I want to look at the affordances and constraints of titling works and the impact that this practice has on the gallery world. Does artwork need titles? Does it need signatures in the bottom right-hand corner? Why do we as artists sometimes choose to lock our artwork into a specific title?

The following portion of this post will expand on the conventions of writing a podcast and important pieces to include.


Notes to remember in building a podcast:

  • Podcasts describe stories verbally and in a sequence of voices and perspectives.
  • Be sure to pepper bits of informal conversation throughout (especially at the beginning before getting into the meat of the episode).
  • Be sure to switch voices frequently to make the episode feel like an easy conversation.
  • Have one person consistently narrate throughout the entire episode

Step-by-step how to write a podcast instructions:

  1. Open up with introducing you podcast and what you will be talking about today over a musical intro that remains consistent between episodes.
  2. Hook your listeners with a short anecdote of how and why you began writing the story.
  3. Lead into the bulk of your first segment.
  4. Bring in a guest or two who provide alternative perspectives and act as a primary sources.
  5. Use sounds or musical bits to guide your listener through the way you want them to feel during transitions.
  6. Transition to your second segment.
  7. Bring in a guest or two who provide alternative perspectives and act as primary sources.
  8. Tie together your two segments and review the episode’s purpose.
  9. Consider bringing in a final relevant perspective.
  10. Finish up with your closing remarks.
  11. End with a musical finish—possibly the same as the music in your intro.

I plan to use this recipe to organize my podcast. My favorite podcast off all time is called 99% invisible. In their podcasts they look into obscure histories of words, technologies, design that shape the world we live in. I want to use their podcasts as a jumping off point in creating the tone and the pacing of my podcast on titling artwork.

2 thoughts to “Titling Artwork: a History of Conventions in a Modern World”

  1. Hey Eva!

    I really enjoyed the way this has evolved since Wednesday. I am a huge fan of the very beginning where you mention the different things that we believe need titles but don’t really know why. This is a very interesting topic and I feel as if it is one that you would be sort of starting the conversation on in that it doesn’t seem to have a ton of coverage already. Another thing I enjoyed was how you kept each item on your list very compact. This makes it much easier to read and much more enjoyable.

    Good luck with the rest of your experimentation!

  2. Eva,
    I completely agree with Jacob–this has evolved so much since our last discussion in class! I just think that your concept for the podcast is so intriguing that I hope you fully realize this just so I can listen. I also liked how you gave step-by-step instructions that were so easy to follow. I think it gave a good baseline for creating a podcast.

    I can’t wait to see how the rest of this experiment turns out!

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