My paintings on the MCC website include Thelonica, Prelude, Toots Teal Man, and Eighty-Eight. These titles all refer to jazz – music that I play and enjoy listening to. Sometimes my wire pictures look like musical scores, or like heads; in jazz the head is the melody played before improvisation.
Thelonica combines the words Thelonious (Monk) and Pannonica, one of Monk’s songs that is always in my head. The number 145 on the orange box in the painting (yes, it is there on the actual telephone pole) also refers to a harmonic progression in jazz, blues, and rock.
Prelude is short for “Prelude To A Kiss,” a Duke Ellington composition. Maybe only I can see a face that is puckering up for a kiss, but perhaps that is alright.
Toots Teal Man is a wire painting with a blue-green sky. It looks to me like a cartoon head of a man holding a harmonica. The title is a pun on Toots Thielemans, the Belgian harmonica player and guitarist. I sent him a photo of my painting.
Finally, Eighty-Eight features a bowtie-like 88 on a telephone pole. The title tips a hat to all jazz pianists, who work 88 keys on their instruments. It also refers to two great artists who died, each at 88, as I was working on the painting – the saxophonist Sam Rivers, and the figure-painter Lucian Freud.
In each case, the title post-dates the picture. I may joke around with possible titles as I paint, but I don’t think that my word games influence my formal choices as I work.
Facing Music, an exhibition of work by Richard Raiselis, opens at Gallery NAGA on May 4, and runs through May 26, 2012.