What's in a name?

October 25, 2005

Dear PYGOYA,

It has recently been discovered that the works of William
Shakespeare were actually written by another person with the
same name. And lately, around this studio, there've been a few
anonymous letters like this one: "If I look for my name on the
Internet, up comes an artist with my exact name and spelling
who is not me. Even worse, the subject matter this person deals
in is nothing with which I want to be associated. I'm
considering using another name and maybe even one with the
other gender. I'm thinking of continuing to use my real name as
well but only for paintings that would go to people in my area.
What do you think?"

Thanks Anonymous. Seeing as we are now actors on a worldwide
stage, you're touching on a sensitive problem. Artists are well
aware of the google-ization of our small world. Sometimes just
putting in a middle initial will do the trick. For folks with
commonplace names I recommend dragging up a historical or
family name and inserting it. You'll begin to see more and more
three-name names in the 21st Century. These days people may not
even take your card or your number. They just google you.
Incidentally, I don't recommend changing your gender. It's been
done. I'm told that it smarts. Be proud of the gender you have
been given.

If you accept my current dictum for success in the art
game--"get good, get unique, get noticed"--a name like Richard
Brown, pleasant as it is, might not cut it. Recently we made
the ultimate boo-boo by publishing one of Richard Brown's
letters and illustrating it with the work of another Richard
Brown. Andrew fixed the problem quickly when the Browns in
question arose in amused confusion.

But more than anything there's the value of a unique identity.
While we are all part of a great human family--with only a few
degrees of separation--we owe it to ourselves to sign our names
uniquely. A name is an entity on which a career hangs. Never
underestimate the value of ego. Do whatever it takes to find
and hold the person that you are and can become. The
Kabalarians may be on to something. This identity, this brand,
becomes the true you. You are the one you need to be
comfortable with. As Sammy Davis Jr. said, "I gotta be me." A
name may seem a small thing, certainly not greater than the
work attached to it, but a name is part of the package. "For a
man to achieve all that is demanded of him he must regard
himself as greater than he is." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

-Robert Genn