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Post details: What's in a name?

What's in a name?

My friend Melissa has a studio at the Montpellier Center for Arts and every now and then invites me for an exhibition opening. The Center is a simple and elegant wooden building, adjacent to a crowning rotunda and surrounded by a well manicured park full of old and spreading oaks. Its classicality and innocence reminds me of little castles in Eastern Bohemia, so whenever I have a chance I gladly undertake an hour drive there.

Yesterday's exhibition was devoted to the artwork of the Center's instructors and as I was walking among the progenies of their imagination I realized how important names are. Some pieces had simple ones, like "Study in Orange" or "Vase II.", but I liked more the ones showing a little twist, the ones jostling your mind into a different perceiving angle. My favorite name was associated with a grey ceramic cone to which two ugly gargoyle-like heads were attached, facing away from each other. The heads had caricatured countenances and crude wire hair. Their creator called them "The Extreme Right Looker And The Extreme Left Looker Can't See Each Other". When I saw the name plaque, it was as if someone turned an extra light on.

Imagine a cartoon character driving a sports car on a narrow mountain road. The car careens off the road and gets stuck on a cliff. The vehicle balanced precariously on the edge, the cartoon character dares not to breathe. Well chosen name is like a frivolous bird who descends on the ornament hood and sends the car tumbling into the abyss of understanding.

I think that simple names should be reserved for truly extraordinary human endeavors. I can see Michelangelo paying one last satisfied look to the monumental depiction of the Judgement Day on the back wall of the Sistine Chapel, contemplating all its hidden implications for a minute and then calling it "A Composition". That would be kind of cool.

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