Building on a Name

This month marks the third anniversary of my name change, and a lot of thoughts (mostly feelings) have been hovering about…

June 2021 was when I settled on what I wanted to call myself. It’s just a coincidence that it happened to be Pride Month. Before I decided to change my name, I’d mistakenly thought people had already assumed I was nonbinary. Pretty silly of me since people still misgender me after knowing my pronouns (they/them). Around the same time, I’d decided to change those, too. I made it one big “announcement” on Instagram. I got a lot of support (for the most part), and I began to take steps to legally change my name from Carol to Ayin and to change my gender markers, too.

I thought about all this for a long time and what it would mean for my art career. Though I wanted to change my first name for many years, I was really hesitant. I’d already changed my last name to Es when I was a young teen. As silly of a name as it was, I built upon the Carol Es name for decades while simultaneously trying to embed it into the music industry and the Los Angeles art scene.

As a starving, dedicated, and ambitious young person, I did whatever I possibly could to get my name out there. I really don’t think any DIYer could have tried any harder. I really don’t. I went to great lengths. It was a name people remembered. I feel like I did pretty well establishing myself without any sort of marketing or business degree or even knowing how to start. I’ll say, I owe most of that to time, but I’ll take some credit for that. I’ve been asked to give talks about how I did it, and I was always an open book, as they don’t teach this stuff in art school.

Nonetheless, I feared changing my name so much, like having to start all over again with getting my name out there. And what about the thousand-something paintings signed with my old name? Will my past collectors feel a certain kind of way? What about the web? Documentation of past shows? How will my gallery present me in the past and from here on out? How do I explain the two different names to new potential buyers? I can’t totally bury the old name, no way. Could Elliot Page fully bury his when there’s a vast body of work in his past? No. Are they supposed to change all the title credits in his movies?

I thought of all of this and weighed it out. Other people have done this; I could do it, too, I thought. I figured I might suffer a little.

To top it off, I moved two hours away from home. I still call LA home, but I also call Joshua Tree home. They are both places I love and feel at home, but I digress.

Moving out of LA and only going back there every few months has made me feel virtually invisible. I mean, who the fuck is Ayin Es? I don’t think changing my name or moving to Joshua Tree were mistakes, it just makes me wonder if I should be doing something more. Something I’m not thinking of.

It probably didn’t help that I had already quit Facebook about a year after I moved here. I thought Instagram was enough social media and much less political, so I essentially dumped about 2200 “Friends” there. I still don’t have that many followers on Instagram, especially since I wasn’t really using it at first, and still don’t.

Then, I took a hiatus from Instagram a couple of years ago. It was starting to make me feel inadequate. When I got back from it, I realized how much happier I was without it. I decided not to spend every day on it and to limit the time I did spend.

I showed as Ayin Es in my last solo show in Santa Monica, the first time I did that in Los Angeles. It’s not that the show went horribly or something, but the turnout wasn’t the same as “usual.” It got one review, which was nice. However, I felt like I promoted the shit out of that exhibit—way more than usual, especially to art writers, many of whom I’ve known personally. I wondered if maybe they didn’t know I was the same person. Not everyone knows. That’s pretty impossible, and I’m relying on people putting it together on their own because of my last name. That might be super unrealistic. I’m not a well-established celebrity like Elliot Page or Caitlyn Jenner. It wasn’t “hard” for them to get the word out about their new names. It was hard for them in all the other ways.

So, I can’t put the genie back in the bottle now, not that I’d want to. I just have to suffer through, be brave, and build on my name again with the non-teenager energy I have left in me. I guess, thems the breaks. I gotta keepa going. What else is there to do?

2 thoughts on “Building on a Name

  1. Mark Strunin June 30, 2024 / 6:20 am

    As we both know “ayin” means “eye” in Hebrew. From the my vantage point, you have doggedly pursued seeing – and documenting through your work – the worlds around you. None of our personal journey’s are linear, simple or without pain yet they give us the opportunity to show to ourselves and to others who we are.
    As I know you will, keep going, keep exploring, keep being.


    • Ayin Es July 1, 2024 / 10:34 am

      Thank you Mark. Sorry I missed this earlier. You’re always so wise. I appreciate you.

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