Phase 1: Pictorial Linguistics

Objects On My Dresser, Phase 1: Pictorial Linguistics was the foundation for this multi-part project – an extensive series of works on paper that form a complex representation of Rapoport’s personality and history.

Sonya Rapoport, Objects On My Dresser – Untitled (Numbered for Analysis), 1979. Original photograph with printed labels, 8″ x 10″.

During a period where Rapoport was mourning the loss of her mother, she had extensive psychoanalytic conversations with psychiatric social worker Winefred De Vos about the 28 objects she’d collected on her bedroom dresser. The associations Rapoport had with these objects, and the web of subconscious, highly personal, and idiosyncratic meanings she’d discovered between them became the subject for an extensive series of drawings.

Sonya Rapoport, Objects On My Dresser, Phase 1: Pictorial Linguistics, “Programmed and Plotted”, page 3, 1979. Plotter print and colored pencil on vellum mounted on continuous feed computer printout paper, 11″ H x 14.875″ W.

Pictorial Linguistics represents Rapoport’s first active use of computer programming, which originated from her earlier aesthetic interest in computer printouts in her Yarn Drawing series (1976). Having studied the Fortran programming language, Rapoport was now using computers at the UC Berkeley Computing Labs to represent physical and relational properties of the objects, creating plotter printed graphs to create a quantitative self portrait. These data visualizations were incorporated into annotated drawings that also made use of solvent transferred images, colored typewriter, colored pencil, and collage.

Sonya Rapoport, Objects On My Dresser, Phase 1: Pictorial Linguistics, “see sea sea-through hear,” page 1, 1979. Colored typewriter, colored pencil, and solvent transfer on continuous feed printout paper, 11″ H x 14.875″ W.

Rapoport matched each of the objects on her dresser with a descriptive word, and a “correlative object”. For example, a gestural drawing by artist Nancy Genn was matched with the word “snakey” [sic], which was then correlated with a found image of sea snakes. These word/image correlations are a central feature of all subsequent phases of Objects On My Dresser. They are a sort of personal matrix, a system Rapoport used to discover truths about her own psyche.

Sonya Rapoport, Objects On My Dresser, Phase 1: Pictorial Linguistics – invitation to exhibition at Franklin Furnace, NY, 1979. Typewriter on IBM computer punchcards used to input data into computer.

Pictorial Linguistics was exhibited at Franklin Furnace, New York in 1979. The exhibition announcement reads, “In reevaluating a personal random set by a technological system, the artist discovered laws of her own behavior patterns. The format includes computer forms and plots – ritualistic symbols of our technological age.”

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