Thinking out loud…
There are questions to ask, (What was I thinking??), and some not to bother with, (Where did I put that?), and some that just naturally unfold themselves. (What “meaning” am I looking for in this piece?)
One of my strategies for figuring out what meaning an in-progress work holds for me is to list all the words that come to my mind. I let myself be literal and symbolic, obscure and obvious, humorous or not—just listing the words, the qualities that dodge through my thinking.
Sometimes this gives me clues as to a direction change. Sometimes a title appears. I like to have working titles as I proceed, and often these change as the work progresses.
And eventually I bring out my trusty thesaurus, and look up the words I am most interested in. I look for words that carry the meaning (or hints of it) that I am searching for.
Titles are the clue I provide to the viewer—a place from which to stand and look at my work, a starting point. Hopefully, the viewer has to (or wants to) ask the questions I have asked myself. And, hopefully, the viewer finds answers in her own (his own) experience.
It is that connection between the viewer and the work that I value. It is what I value about looking at art. If I can bring my own experience to the conversation between me and the work, I am able to have a dialog with the artist. It doesn’t matter if my experience is different from the artist’s, it only matters that meaning has been carried, transmitted, communicated, shared.
Art grows and advances civilization. That may seem obvious, but think about it, let it sink in. Let the necessity of art give you hope and purpose in your work.