The late 1970s were an intensely prolific prolific period for Sonya Rapoport, one in which she absorbed new ideas and experimented with new ways of making artwork.
In 1976 she began her Anasazi Series of drawings in pencil on computer printout paper. This work evolved out of her earlier Yarn Drawing series, in which she treated found printouts as aesthetic objects, creating compositions with her NuShu language of feminist stencils. The Anasazi Series represents an important step in Rapoport’s engagement with computers – she began to learn more about how this technology worked, which would soon lead to her reinvention as a digital artist.
Working with Anthropologist Dorothy Washburn, the first of many collaborators, Rapoport’s Anasazi Series is rendered on printouts of data from a mathematical analysis of the symmetry patterns in Anasazi pottery. Using stencils of Anasazi motifs and mathematical symbols from Washburn’s book A Symmetry Analysis of Upper Gila Area Ceramic Design (Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Vol 68, 1977, drawings by Sarah Whitney Powell), Rapoport created colorful compositions that reflect and expand the data depicted in Washburn’s gridlike charts. These process pieces are both direct, formulaic translations of the data into visual form, and “an aesthetic response to the data,” as Rapoport stated in a statement for an exhibition at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University in 1978.
Rapoport would go on to expand the Anasazi Series into research-based, conceptual works that made use of the computer to represent data, including Bonito Rapoport Shoes (1978). In this work, Rapoport catalogued her own shoe collection, used a computer to analyse the data, and printed the results in graphs and charts. She then drew into the resulting printouts with colored pencil, image transfer, and colored typewriter, presenting an in-depth history and feminist critique of women’s footwear, and using motifs from the Anasazi Series.