Do the names we give to people, places, and things actually bestow meaning upon them? Or does a name ultimately assume its meaning from that which it identifies? I believe it to be, in most contexts, a complex mixture of both. These are just a few of the questions I was asking as I began my newest series of abstract photographs. At the time, I only had a couple of images. I didn't yet know what I wanted to do with them, but I knew there was a common thread there.
As an abstract artist, I’m aware of the fact that abstract art is a struggle for many people. Without context, we aren’t always comfortable or confident in our interpretation of what we’re seeing. But life is full of abstract things. Love is an abstract noun, and yet, we are who we are because of who we love and those who love us. In this way, love becomes concrete. Names are also abstract; though they evoke images of the named, they do not contain or fully describe the person.
I had been thinking about the longstanding tradition of naming places, streets, buildings, etc. after people as a way of honoring them. Unfortunately, this is typically done in memoriam as a way of paying tribute to the deceased. Though not always the case, it is also often reserved for celebrating distinguished or famous individuals. I began thinking, what if we made more of an effort to celebrate people while they were alive? What if our criteria for what makes a person worthy of celebration was not limited to their local or global celebrity? What if making abstract art could be commandeered as a practice of gratitude? Who am I thankful for in my life?
Right around the time I was processing these ideas, a good friend randomly texted me this quote from a book he was reading:
“...each of us is an entire history of attachments and affinities,
and none of those is merely accidental to some more essential self.”
– David Bentley Hart
Upon reading that quote, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these abstract images and the series was born. Each image is named in honor of a person who has positively impacted my life. I’m not trying to make representative connections between the person and the abstract image. I’m merely going to take a moment around the completion of an image to reflect upon and honor that person by naming my work after them. It’s my way of saying to each person, “I found something that I thought was beautiful, something that made life a little more exciting, and it made me think of you.” After that, it’s out of my hands. I’m not going to worry about whether that person likes the image or not, they are free to take or leave it. I’m not going to worry about people feeling left out if I don’t name an image after them, as it would be impossible to name every single person who has positively impacted my life. The goal is not for this to be a chore, but an intentional practice of gratitude and honor.
As always, thank you for looking with me!
All images are available to purchase as signed and numbered limited-edition archival prints on 21mil premium lustre rag