What’s in a name?

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but the wrong title for a painting can stink.

"Zion, Face to Face" by Charlotte Mertz (9"x12" oil, 190701-o)

“Zion, Face to Face” by Charlotte Mertz (9″x12″ oil, 190701-o)

Initially, when seeking a title for this painting, I had been concerned that there might be some question regarding what was casting the canyon wall into shadow. But, by titling this painting “Silhouettes and Shadows” as a clarification, I inadvertently misdirected the viewers’ attention to unlit sections rather than to the sunlit area of the painting that the shadow underscored.

After allowing the painting to rest and resonate with me for some time, I knew that I needed to find a more appropriate title that would both identify Zion National Park as the specific locale the scene depicted and emphasize the lighted portion of the stone wall rather than the supporting features of the shadow and silhouetted trees.

In many instances, artists find it preferable to avoid citing specific locations painted, allowing the viewer to imagine a location based on their own background and experiences.  In the case of a well known or iconic location, however, it is often advantageous to specify it in the title.

In Zion National Park, the names of many of the geological features allude to biblical references.  The new title I selected, “Zion, Face to Face,” specifically cites the name of the park. “Face to Face” may be understood in either of two ways—first by suggesting that the viewer is seeing Zion “in person” through the eyes of the artist, and second by suggesting that the shadow is cast by a second wall facing the one illustrated. In either case, it draws attention to the textured rock face of the canyon wall instead of to the peripheral, shadowed areas.  The phrase “Face to Face” also alludes to a biblical passage in I Corinthians 13:12. For those familiar with the passage, this, in turn, underscores the brilliant light and clarity of the park’s atmosphere.

So the new title, rather detracting from the painting, now contributes to and enhances the intended concept of it.  Can it get any sweeter than that?

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