MADDISON CHAFFER

NAME

you don't get to name yourself

 

Somewhere in the stratosphere, there's a wide, ugly expanse where nicknames go to die. "Crusher" or "Moonbeam" or "The Money" never quite catch on—probably because those nicknames are self-imposed.

It’s the unspoken rule of nicknaming: you don't get to name yourself. That's a responsibility that belongs to your parents, or your teasing friend, or the bullies from third grade. My name is Madison, but years of misspelling by loved ones warped it permanently into double Ds. And once a name is given, it sticks. 

This is kind of a big deal. A name is an identity; it can be humanizing, or cruel, or ironic, or revealing, or just misspelled. It's the groundwork for understanding. How could you recognize the subtle shift between navy and indigo without the words for each different blue? How do you think Voldemort did so well for himself?

As an artist, I give out visual names. I draw attention to concepts that don’t have words, and use image as explanation. Slowly, honest understanding of abstract ideas like “distance” or “belonging” grows out of the naming process. Once a concept has been named, it can be recognized. It can be respected. It can be loved.

My approach to my art is a direct reflection of my life in LA. There’s a lot of honesty and humor in the city, especially from the homeless communities, the second-rate artists, and the “crazies." These groups live in a constant state of “What else do we have to lose?” We are quick to swap stories, and share food, and give each other names. You can’t name yourself, after all. 

Give out good names.