The advent of chemical symbolism in the art of Sonya Rapoport
This paper explores the use of chemical symbolism in works by the new media artist Sonya Rapoport, with a focus on the pivotal Cobalt series from the late 1970s. These works, drawings on computer printouts generated by research at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, respond to experiments in nuclear chemistry. They mark the beginning of three productive decades in which Rapoport produced a variety of images related to chemistry in her work. She states, “I looked for authentic research projects that were interesting to me, preferably with captivating pictorial subject matter. Then came the creative chaotic process of resolving a cohesive product that combined scientific research with art concept.” Rapoport had an unusual degree of access to scientific materials through her husband, organic chemist Henry Rapoport, a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley. At the time of production, these works were outside mainstream art world interests and they have received little critical attention. This paper examines the development of Rapoport’s images and places her use of chemical references in context in her lifetime of work.
KeywordsAlchemy Art Chemistry Cobalt Digital art Drawing Feminism Gold Lederer New media Nuclear chemistry Periodic table Rapoport Scientific illustration
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