Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Windows on Cedar: Sharol Nau

Sharol Nau is a Northfield artist who is obsessed with mathematics. She is NOT a mathematician, but attended a math and art conference on a whim and found the confluence of art and mathematics fascinating.  Her work can be seen in the windows and in the gallery during Reader's Art 12.

My artwork develops from doing.  Inspiration may arise from a location, a sheet of good rag paper, a block of Styrofoam, a stack of books or more. I begin by experimenting with materials until ideas and techniques come together.  Progress demonstrates adjustments along the way but I know when it is finished because it is successfully filled with my visual ideas.
Making art for more than thirty years gives me an abundance to draw from.  However there are periods in development when a diversion from my usual practice is required to keep the work fresh and interesting.  Even though it is not readily apparent in this collection of recent book sculptures they are influenced indirectly by visual memories of my trips to a local creek that runs slowly at a bend where trees and rocks block the flow.  The creek is transformed from a stream to a wavy pond as the flow—not completely blocked—stagnates just enough for waves to bounce off the banks and obstructions to form wonderful patterns.
The best books from which to shape engaging sculptures are gently used with good quality paper bought by the bagful at an annual book sale.  Methodically folded pages hinged to a book spine take on unexpected, graceful structures.  Shapes can be prescribed mathematically; others are freely formed.
My first attempts at creating small sculptures by folding the pages of recycled books were experimental.  Mathematics came into play only after I had folded a set of encyclopedias.  Being material conscious, I switched to novels constructed of higher quality paper with deckled edges.  The performance of waves from the resulting series of folds is beautiful as I use variations on a classical math problem, the so-called Paper Creasing Problem.  More recently the waves are popping up due to parabolic curves.  Each page is folded to a common point, the focus, with the edge serving as the straight line.  Thus the collection of folds forms an arch-curve.  Abounding waves emanate as the book is opened and spread out.  I am discovering more waves as I delve into the problem of creating works that represent a perfect shuffle, as in playing cards. In mathematics a perfect shuffle is when a set of cards is divided into two equal piles and shuffled to interleave them perfectly.

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