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Proper Names
  • Matthew Ryan Smith, Ph.D.
“What’s in a name?”  The exhibition “Proper Names” questions the ways that contemporary artists engage with their proper name as a signifier of cultural identity, personal expression, and sense of self.  The artists included here approach the act of naming as an embodiment of individuality and representation, investigating themes of language, sexuality, and anonymity.  Here they engage how their proper name, their individual sense of self, and their artwork operate in a matrix of articulations, each bleeding into the other to further complicate matters of identity.  They also take aim at the act of naming as an uncontrolled and socially-determined convention that carries with it historical and cultural meanings that may or may not bear importance to the individual’s own interests, passions, or lifestyle—be it Biblical connections, familial ancestry, racial ethnicity, and so on.  In effect, the reality of being born into a name bends and breaks when that name no longer becomes relevant or reflective of the individual.  What results is a critical interplay of the artist’s name that at once says everything and nothing about them.
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Quinn Smallboy