Naming Paintings In The Abstract

By:  Slim Randles

We all read about Pastor Jeff’s latest tribulation in the local paper, the Valley Weekly Miracle. Maybe tribulation is too strong a word, because, after all, when someone leaves your church a huge legacy, isn’t it time for rejoicing? Shouldn’t we all be walking around the walls of Jericho tootling on ram’s horns and beating the drums in jubilation?

It seems one of Pastor Jeff’s former church members – a kinda strange former church member – went off to the city some years ago and became a fairly well-known painter of pictures. When this eccentric artist went to that great studio in the sky recently, leaving no family, his will left everything to Pastor Jeff’s congregation. There was a little money, which was welcomed, naturally, but the main item was paintings. More than a thousand of them. They are now the property of Pastor Jeff’s church. They have filled the basement with them and they’re threatening to crowd the pie-cooling counter in the ladies’ kitchen area, which just can’t happen.

They must be sold, of course, but there is one catch: none of them are named, and everyone knows a painting must have a name or else it’s not a real work of art. These paintings are from the school of abstract expressionism, which means there’s a lot of bright paint on them, and if you can look at one and figure out what it’s supposed to be, the artist failed.

A painting-naming committee was formed, naturally, and the last we heard, had about a dozen paintings named, based loosely on what some wild curve or blob on the canvas brought to someone’s mind.

Of course, down at the Mule Barn truck stop’s philosophy counter and world dilemma think tank, we came up with a solution in about three cups’ time.

The trick, we decided, is to blend nonsensical words together, because anyone who would buy one of these paintings has an obvious contempt for reality in the first place. So we came up with a formula. Make a list and name a painting an amalgamation/dynamism/cataclysm/rudiment/despotism/heraldry/approximation of sin/pulchritude/embellishment/innocence/hitchiking/world order/fishing season/spaghetti feeds/lassitude/ennui/cyclamates.

You simply pick one from one column, one from the other column, slap ’em together and there you go. With seven in the first column and 11 in the second column, the naming committee can instantly name at least 77 paintings. And this was just during three cups of Mavis’s best. A hard-working church committee could name a thousand paintings during one of Pastor Jeff’s sermons and be back in business in time for the benediction.

I’m putting my dibs down on Despotism of Pulchritude. Hope I don’t get outbid.


Read the first novel ever published in Alaska – The Long Dark by Slim Randles.