Last summer as I was in my Santa Fe studio, working on a sculptural art piece, I stopped to think about what I should name her. This was a woodcarving of a woman on an antique metal bike, her hair and polka-dotted scarf flowing in the breeze. (For a photo, see my other blog, marieromerocash.blogspot.com ) When I added the last bit of color, and proceeded to brush varnish over it, I stopped to think about what the piece represented to me. I named her Running from La Llorona. One of the legends of La Llorona is that she represents a mythical bogey woman who hides out in the arroyos of northern New Mexico, waiting to grab mischievous children and cart them off until they straighten up their acts. (Loosely translated, her name means “The Crier” although it sounds much more beguiling in Spanish, La yo-roh-nah.)
Along with a whole slew of artists who have been zinged in the kiester with the downturn of the economy (more than those with regular paychecks), I realized I had been running from the economic bogey person, trying to keep it from grabbing me from behind and stuffing me in a crevice somewhere. In a recession, art is the first of the commodities to go. People still need shelter, food and gas, but most don’t need art. I’ve been creating art for thirty-five years, so it’s a little late to change careers in midstream, and I haven’t had that million selling book yet, so patience is turning out to be a virtue I need to cultivate.
In the past I have found that collectors prefer that the art they purchase have a title. Most don’t want it to be just a painting or just a sculpture. They want the artist to tell them what the piece represents. My son, Gregory Lomayesva, is a Native American artist. He rarely adds titles to his paintings, preferring to let the viewer’s imagination take them wherever they need to go. Much of his art comes from a space deep within which makes it doubly difficult to attach a title that anyone else would understand. If a gallery insists, he will come up with a random name, but most of the time he leaves it to the viewer.
I wondered how very odd it would be if writers didn’t put titles on their work. I know, this is a stretch, but bear with me. I’m trying to make up for losing that hour to Daylight Savings Time. So think about going into your favorite bookstore and finding shelves and more shelves filled with nothing but books with blank covers. A person would have to imagine what’s inside. So, I’m thinking that choosing a title for a book can be very similar to choosing a title for an art piece. When I wrote my memoir about growing up in Santa Fe, the title of Tortilla Chronicles came from the idea that through my entire childhood, there was always a stack of freshly made tortillas on the kitchen table. You could put anything inside or on a tortilla, fold it over and place it in your lunch sack along with whatever meager assortment of foodstuffs was available. Tortillas were our staff of life, and we never tired of dipping torn segments into warm bowls of beans and chili.
Some years ago I picked up a book with an intriguing dark cover, the author wearing a turtleneck sweater pulled up all the way to her nose against a black background. The book was by Nora Ephron titled I Feel Bad About My Neck, a reference to the wrinkled turkey necks that seem to appear out of nowhere as one ages. The cover and title spoke to me, and for that reason I believe that in order to be effective, both title and cover should stir something in reader. When I’m browsing for a book to cuddle up with on a cold or breezy Santa Fe night, I am attracted to the cover first and then the title, probably because of my artistic background. I appreciate that some authors can pick a number or a letter of the alphabet and go with it, although “A is for Asinine” sure isn’t going to tell you much about what’s on the inside. If you’re drawn to food, as most of us are, one mystery writer adorns the cover with an assortment of baked goods . Somehow I never wanted to read a book about a missing cupcake, but hey, if it caters to your inner baker, buy it. It isn’t unusual for me to change a title several times before I’m satisfied that it’s going to be the one that makes it to the final cut. I read somewhere that the title should speak to a reader as much as the inside cover, but I believe that’s also true for the image you choose for the cover. A book about turkeys sure wouldn’t have a zebra on the cover (duh) but wouldn’t a book about a zebra sure look nice with just a black background and some carefully placed white stripes? That would be compelling enough for me to pick it up and take a look inside.
I’m presently working on several writing projects, and decided yesterday that it’s time to get back in the studio and create a few works in anticipation of a well-mended economy by the time Spanish Market comes around at the end of July on the Santa Fe Plaza. Not to worry. My mind is conditioned that even while I’m doing something else my subconscious is working on writing. That’s when I should keep that voice recognition gizmo I spoke about in the previous post next to my carving knives. Then I won’t have to stop to make a note about something that just came to mind and I can just speak into a laptop, but then my Border Collie will wonder who I’m talking to since she’s the only other person in the room.