Arts, Culture & Media

Psychedelic Paper Art or High-Level Math?

Jen Stark's lush paper landscapes seem both psychedelic and scientific. Usingtrippy shapes and colors, she draws you into a placeof quiet mystery. It's the kind of work that'sequally at home on the covers of science magazines and billboards.

Mathematicians, in particular, get rathertouchy feely about Stark's work --- they send her notes comparing her sculptures to complex equations and theories of infinity. One e-mailed her apaper byCornellUniversity mathematician Karen Vogtmann, pointing out the similarities between Stark'sBurst and Vogtmann's concept of Outer Space. That's not the spacewe know with the sun and the stars but rather a mathematical idea. An Outer Automorphism is a collection of groups, each filled with ways to map points of an object to itself, while maintaining the object's deeper structure. It can get your brain all twisted up just thinking about it and so can Stark's art objects.

Jen Stark's Burst alongside Karen Vogtmann's Outer Space
Jen Stark's Burst alongside Karen Vogtmann's Outer Space (via)

Stark is not a mathematician or scientist. She studied art in Maryland and in 2004, spent a summerin Aix-en-Provence. She found she couldn't afford French pastels or oil paints, so she bought blocks of kiddy construction paper and began cutting. The meticulous, sequential work felt meditative, Stark says.

A single sculpture can take months to finish, built layer bywafer-thin layer. Stark makes everything by hand and has to pace herself so she doesn't wreck her fingers. She's come up with a few cheats: she wears mittens and pads her X-Acto knife with cotton balls. Having a sense of humor helps too. For one sculpture, Starkcut 10,000 shapes of paper every day for 100 days.The title of the piece:How to Become a Millionaire in 100 Days.

Jen Stark in her studio (Peter Vahan)
How to Become a Millionaire in 100 Days
How to Become a Millionaire in 100 Days (2007)


Vortextural
Vortextural (2013)


Cosmic Complex
Cosmic Complex(2013) and Vividity (2012)

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