Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ooooh, Good Title.

I realize that after all the huffing and puffing of the earlier entry, I never actually managed to discuss the work in question. No surprise. Writing about how work is made is easy. Writing about what it means is hard. So let's start with something easy - let's start with the title.

Of course there's nothing easy about titles. A title is a dangerous thing. A great title can make a piece (Damien Hirst). Bad titles stink like rotten fish (Barrett Newman). Good titles illuminate. A bad titles obscure, or overreach. In the best cases, a good title gives us a new perspective, provides a new point of entry. In the worst case, a title is pretentious, or obvious, or both.

That said, I think leaving work "untitled" is a cop-out. "Untitled" says, "I recognize how high the stakes are here, and I'm afraid to get it wrong". I understand why people do it - that desire to keep your work from defined a few words or phrases - but it seems to me that if you had the courage to make something, and to display it, you should try to find the courage to give it a name.

So. With all of that in mind, the title for this piece is...

"Self Portrait, With Ambition"

This piece did not start out being a self-portrait. It started with a helmet, and a bow and arrow. It became a self-portrait over time. In some areas I was working from photographs, but in many cases I was using myself as a model, and the references began to accumulate. In the end, it was the Leatherman that tipped the scale. Once I added that, I knew this had become a self-portrait, and I knew what the piece was about.

This piece is a mission statement. It is a declaration of intent, or a declaration of war. It is the moment when I decided that I wanted to compete with my idols, wanted hold myself to the standards of my heroes. This image speaks to both that ambition, and to the anxiety that comes with declaring that ambition.

This is not the hunter triumphant. This is not a frontal assault. The approach here is stealthy, possibly tentative. The regalia is a dressed up lash-up of relics and the regular. Yet even as he sneaks up on flip-flops, crouched low with a simple bow and helmet he can barely see through, we see that the arrowheads are not simple hunting flints, but iron points, designed to pierce armor. For all his awkwardness, for all his reservations, this kid means business.

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