Thursday, June 23, 2016

Word-Sifting for Show Title Gold

I thought it might be interesting for some to see how I arrived at the title/theme for my show this year. Through a process I call "word-sifting," I settled on the title back on May 21 but I immediately tucked that word away in my heart & brain so it could take root, sprout, expand, and blossom in protective privacy. Today's the day though for that title to become public, to become a solid guiding light as my show prep transforms into show production.

Sometimes the title for a show comes easily - "Sparks of Madness" is an example - but often it is elusive. When that happens, when I have to go digging for inspiration. I love vintage dictionaries, thesauruses and texts on language roots; these books are rich with archaic words that are still valid but that have fallen out of use. They also help me play detective, discovering roots and relationships that can point me to just the right word.  I look for a word or phrase that encompasses the scope of the work I plan for the show, a word that is descriptive and intriguing but not restrictive. I take copious notes along the way and the following is an account of my word-sifting path to this year's show title:

MENAGERIE: I began with a word that I've used for the past two or three years (aka "The Motley Menagerie.") I love how this word sounds and the visuals it conjures but it was time to move on...

MUSEUM: For a while, I was stuck on "museum" as an offshoot of "menagerie" but in spite of listing several possible titles - such as "Minerva Magpie's Marvelous Museum of Monsters" - I finally decided that "museum" wasn't quite right for this year.

CARNIVAL: The next word that rose to the surface of my word-sifting...stalled here for a while as well but I decided to set this aside for a different collection of work.

SIDESHOW: Looking here at synonyms for "carnival" which led to...

CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: Research on this led to...

EMPORIUM: At this point, I began to think that perhaps I was looking for a descriptive word rather than a specific noun so I thought about how I could describe an "emporium." There were many options but the next word temporarily floated to the surface...

FANCY: Which led to...

FLIGHTS OF FANCY: This phrase led to the direct synonym...

WHIMS: Looked up variations of this...

WHIMSICAL: Looked at the definition here which led to...

IMAGINATION: Expanded this word into a common phrase...

FIGMENTS OF IMAGINATION: I was a bit adrift and frustrated by now so I started looking at word origins and broke this phrase apart...

FIGMENT: I realized I really liked the sound of this word so I dug into it a bit more, beginning with the definition - "A mere product of mental invention, a fantastic notion; a feigned, invented or imagined story." Oooooh...there's my "word of the year" - story. I think I'm on the right track so I keep sifting.

FIGMENTUM: This is the Latin root of "figment" related to the verb "fingere" which means "to form, contrive, shape." At this point, I knew the nugget of word inspiration I was looking for had risen to the surface but since my show contains multiple works and "figmentum" is singular, I transformed this word into its proper plural form in Latin...

So hello there to my 2016 show title! I love the familiar but fresh sound of this title and I like how it is general enough to serve as an umbrella for many different types of work but also specific enough to tie all those pieces together.

Note: I hope, dear readers, that you are not growing weary of this kind of post; this work is my primary focus for the balance of the summer. I'll try to remember to toss in posts unrelated to my show work but on balance, expect this thread to continue practically unabated as most other projects give way to my painting fever.

8 comments:

Jennifer Shelby said...

it's fun to see your process, and 'figmenta' is perfect

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posts. I especially like these posts related to your show work, seeing how you progress through all the stages, getting a glimpse at what your thought processes happen to be at each stage. (I have read your blog for years but haven't commented till now. I am just not 'chatty' by any means.)

molly said...

Enjoyable.

Ryegirl said...

I too think "Figmenta" is perfect.

Özge Başağaç said...

I love every step of preparing for the show! Anything you tell is new to me, can't get enough of the adventure :)Now that you mentioned Latin, Roman soldiers had appeared before my eyes...Helmets, body armours, swords and all...One word leads to another and see where i end up. Happy creating Michelle.

Emie58 said...

I LOVE that you shared your process... it gives it much more meaning.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing your process - and the way you wrote your post was awesome, taking us along on the journey. Love, love, love the word Figmenta!
-Ellie

gretchen said...

no! not tiring of this at all... please keep it coming when it suits you to share.

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