Monday, July 7, 2014

Triple Identity…Making a name for yourself when you actually have three

A Triptych by Candice Bohannon, “Understanding” “Insight” and “Seeking”

Assassins and many married women artists have something in common…

John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray…and…well, Judy Takács Pendergast, Terry Moore Strickland, Candice Bohannon Reyes, Ann Kraft Walker, Linda Tracey Brandon, Kyrin Ealy Hobson, Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco, Anna Rose Bain, Sadie Jernigan Valeri, Linda Harris Reynolds, Susan Cone Porges, Nancy Bea Miller

We have three names. Of course, that’s where the similarities end.

And, for the married women artists, at some point in our lives we face the decision of what to do with our husband’s name.

For the better part of the last century, there wasn’t a decision to make. When you got married, you changed your last name to your husband’s last name. From that point forward, as a couple you might even be referred to as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith; your actual identity being irrelevant to the more important fact that you were now the wife of John Smith.

I’m seeing this archaic (and to me, offensive) custom used less and less lately, but it will appear on a formal invitation now and then to remind me that polite society doesn’t really care who I am. Here’s hoping it goes the way of chastity belts, scold’s bridles and foot binding and eventually disappears.

But, the name issue still confronts every woman who marries…and rears its head again if you have children.

And surprisingly, for many of the artists questioned, name decisions became an issue yet again when they discovered that facebook would be more than a fun way to connect with grade school buddies. Facebook would be a vital marketing tool and venue for building your brand as an artist.

So, even if, long ago, you decided to brand your art identity with ONE last name, as soon as you include your maiden and married names in your facebook identity, you, and your art become known by both names.

In other words, it’s hard to become known as “Coke” when you’re also known as “Coke-Pepsi”.

So your choices are…

Don’t change your name

Leave it alone, sign your paintings “Coke”, let “Coke” be on your passport and drivers license, and name your kids whatever you and your husband agree on. Usually the compromise is that the kids are “Dylan, Maddie and Emma Pepsi”. (Not sure why this is the case, we’re the ones that do ALL the work, but that’s a soapbox for another day :) If you chose this option, just accept that you’ll sometimes be referred to as “Mrs. Pepsi” by the principal and the dentist.

Do change your name

Drop your maiden name completely and start branding as the new name. Sometimes the new name is a better one…maybe “Pepsi” rolls off the tongue much more easily than “Coke.”

Judith Barker thought so, when she married Dewey Carducci. Every city in Italy has a Via Carducci named after Nobel Laureaute Gosue Carducci, and the name just sings art, romance and love. Judith Carducci, founding chair of the Cecilia Beaux Forum, even waited until her wedding night in 1961 to sign Carducci to a portrait she painted of her new husband.

When Sadie Jernigan married, she changed her name to the classic Italian Valeri (pronounced VaLAIRey). She says that she had not yet “come into her own” as an artist at that point, so the Valeri was a beautiful change at an opportune time. To honor her father’s name, though, she signs her paintings SJV. And, of course on facebook, many of us have come to know her as Sadie Jernigan Valeri. Now we also know that as an artist and director and founder of the Sadie Valeri Atelier in San Francisco, she is Sadie Valeri.

Stephanie J. Parenti chose to change to and keep her husband’s name, Deshpande, even after they divorced...because she always found the name intriguing and liked its Indian origin. “I like it that I’m the only person I know of with my name out there” She doesn’t believe in numerology, but since her lucky number is nine, she likes that now her first and last name both have nine characters and that seven of the nine letters are also in her first name. She took Deshpande before the social media boom, and doesn’t include her maiden name, Parenti in her facebook profile name, Stephanie Deshpande.

Change and shuffle your names

Move your maiden/artist name to the middle and take your husbands name as your family name.

Some artists choose to brand with all three names…

Ann Kraft Walker says she keeps Kraft to honor her parents “who supported and believed in my like no one else.”

Linda Harris already had a thriving portrait career when she married. Wanting people to know that she was the same artist, she kept the tradition of her mother and grandmother and made her artist/maiden name her middle name and now goes by Linda Harris Reynolds.

Linda Tracey Brandon does the same; Tracey being her maiden name. She felt it distinguished her art identity from the more ordinary Linda Brandon. Since all three are technically first names, she gets a lot of people calling her Tracey or even Brandon.

In the tradition of William Merrit Chase and John Singer Sargent these women successfully and recognizably chose to use the three names together.

And some have three names thrust upon them by facebook

We all know her on facebook, as Candice Bohannon Reyes, but how does she sign her paintings? Even before she married, Candice already had a three part name, with her own mother’s middle name, Leidy before the Bohannon.  When she married artist Julio Reyes, there were passionate family opinions on what to do with the Leidy, the Bohannon and the Reyes. Candice also considered the implications on her art identity. Not wanting the confusion of two artists named Reyes in the household, she changed her middle name to Bohannon and took Julio’s last name. This enables her to accept checks as Candice Bohannon and Candice Reyes. And, even though her official artist name is Candice Bohannon, the art world also knows her as Candice Bohannon Reyes, in part due to her facebook fame. This confusion has shown up on gallery name cards sometimes, she says.

Since both her and her husband’s art careers are developing in parallel, and what is good for one is good for the other, this common name seems to work beautifully for their “brand.” Candice has written a very insightful and revealing blog post about their combined art path.

Artist, Kyrin Ealy adopted Ealy as her middle name and changed her last to Hobson…a name that’s spelled like it sounds, unlike Kyrin and Ealy. She married at the beginning of her art path and signs paintings Kyrin Hobson but on facebook , she is once again Kyrin Ealy Hobson.

For years, Terry Strickland used her married name professionally, personally and in her blog. She almost never referenced her middle name, Moore, which was her maiden name …until of course, Facebook resurrected it, and to many of us now she is known as Terry Moore Strickland.

For my part, I have always signed my paintings Takács…I can paint it all-caps with straight lines, the accent is a fun design element, and since I have only one sister, and my sons are all Pendergasts, the only way my family name will live on is through my paintings. So I took the Takács as my middle name and my artist name. On facebook, however, I am Judy Takacs Pendergast and am often known by this mouthful of a name I never intended to hyphenate or use together. I’m sure it is confusing my brand and I am considering dropping the Pendergast on facebook, but don’t want to raise red flags that I have also dropped my husband!

And some lead a dual…or triple identity that changes as life changes.

Susan Cone Porges uses all three names for official documents, personal and professional…business cards, credit cards, passport. In her early married days she’d sign paintings SC Porges leaving the “C” to honor her family name, which was changed at Ellis Island from Kagan to Cohen. Later, after serving in the Second World War, her father changed Cohen to Cone, to avoid possible anti-semitism when he looked for work in advertising. And, now, in the interests of an artful simpler signature, she signs “Porges” to paintings. On facebook, however she is Susan Cone Porges, but she identifies her fabulously busy studio as Susan Porges-The Art Studio.

And Sharon Pomales changed her official name to Sharon Tousey when she married, but her artist name remains Sharon Pomales. On facebook she has adopted a true double identity, calling herself Sharon Pomales Sharon Tousey.

And then there are those who have three names already

…without even adding a name for the husband, here are some surprises I discovered in my research.

Turns out that Rose Freymuth-Frazier’s parents were children of the ’60s…unmarried and living off the grid. She was born at home with no birth certificate and her parents decided to give her both their last names. They also considered changing the whole family’s name to an entirely new one; “Thunder.” Rose herself thinks this might have been a better idea, being that her name has been butchered as Frazie Freymouth and Ms. Flymeat. Already dealing with the complexities of a dual identity from birth, Rose says that if she were to marry she’d leave well enough alone and keep her name the way it was.

I was also surprised to find out that Nancy Bea Miller’s three part name has been hers since birth. Early on, before facebook, she made the decision to identify herself as Nancy Bea in art to distinguish herself from all the Nancy Millers in the world, and has been happy with her decision.

Anna Rose Bain, since the age of 8, has been signing artwork Anna Rose. With the foresight to know she’d be taking her husband’s name when she married she never started using her own family name, Holsclaw.  She almost never signs “Bain” to a painting either though, reserving it for official portraits of judges and politicians.

And Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco, whose name is reminiscent of the painting labels at the Uffizi and the Vatican, confirmed that all four names come from her family. She follows the Italian custom where all documents and official papers show the maiden name, and do not change with marriage. The married name is used unofficially and socially only. She uses her maiden name on the internet to protect the privacy of her husband and children and to maintain a single brand identity for her art.

Pen-names, stage names, chosen names.

Just who the heck is Kristy Schmisty? And why was she accepting the award when Kristy Gordon was a finalist at the Portrait Society of America this past year?

Here’s the story. Kristy Schmisty was a pen name she gave herself from “an old punk zine” she wrote as a teenager. The name was inspired by an urban legend her mom told about people marrying into an unfortunate name situation. (we’ve all seen the R-rated memes about innocent hyphenations of ordinary last names awkwardly joined in matrimony. Don’t click if names like Butts-McCracken offend you…that’s one of the mild ones)

So, as a nod to the hilarious names that often result from name changes, Kristy chose her pen name as Kristy Schmisty.

Years later, when facebook was young and an unknown entity, Kristy resurrected Kristy Schmisty for privacy’s sake. When facebook took off as an invaluable social media tool for artists, Kristy Schmisty was already firmly planted as her alter ego. Kristy says it has not caused problems, and is actually a fun conversation starter when people (like me) happily discover that she is also Kristy Gordon.

And I shall close this article with perhaps the strangest tale of all.

Before her career took off, artist Arabella Proffer married a music author with a killer pen name…Vendetta.  “I got married right out of college and before really showing art, I was thrust into the LA music scene where everyone was so daft they thought Vendetta was our real name. People kept calling me Isabella [instead of Arabella], so I shortened it to Bella sometimes.” Thus was born Bella Vendetta. She even had an album named after Bella Vendetta, by the band, Daydream Nation.

Then, when she began showing her art, Arabella used her actual given name…Arabella Proffer. The significant amount of recognition she had attained as Bella Vendetta was lost because no one knew who Arabella was.

Arabella investigated returning to using the lyrical Bella Vendetta name only to find that a porn star had registered the domain name and was using it professionally. Not wanting the confusion of her google searches yielding porn sites, she set forth as Arabella Proffer-Vendetta.

This proved to be a mouthful and didn’t fit easily on a line in show announcements and newspaper columns, so she returned to Arabella Proffer and has gone by that ever since.

The Vendetta name, however, is starting to gain publicity as her husband’s book, Wivenhoe Park  by Ben Vendetta rises to success, and Arabella is considering hyphenating again. People often ask her what kind of name Vendetta is…that’s when Arabella tells them it’s Ukranian.

And so these are just a very few of the many MANY name stories women artists face. Please feel free to add your own to the comments, or on the Cecilia Beaux Facebook Group page…it’s fascinating to see how others are dealing with this issue!

by Judy Takács
Cecilia Beaux Forum

Chair New Media Relation
Portrait Society of America


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