Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Math of Art

My dear friend Maria of Natural Math has a life mission of showing people the art of math.  But last night at Cary's monthly Art Loop (or Final Friday, as we usually call it), I got to see examples of the math of art.

Unfortunately, there were very few people enjoying this month's Art Loop, presumably because most were at home preparing for Hurricane Irene.  But that was a shame, because there was some lovely art and artists, and the evening ended up being perfectly calm and beautiful.

While I always enjoy all the galleries, one that particularly struck me was J.J. Jiang's exhibit at the Page-Walker Art & History Center entitled "Hometown Waters-From Suzhou, China to Oriental, North Carolina."  Jiang, a professional architect and illustrator who was originally from China, somehow came to settle in the Eastern Carolina town of Oriental, and the show features pictures of boats and other water scenes from the two places.  This particularly struck me because Oriental is where my husband keeps his boat (and thus was down there on Thursday securing it from the hurricane).  Oriental has a theme of dragons (to connect its name to China), and you can wonder through the town finding dragon eggs in various parks and such.  But I had never seen a Chinese response to this North Carolina town.  You can see some of the pieces in this show on his website under the Galleries, then Art Portfolio.  The artist is a gifted and interesting man.

But then I wandered over to the Cary Town Hall, and there I found two other captivating artists.  The first I was Elke Brand, formerly from Germany but now working in the area.  She has a Planet series made of digital photography with a very symmetrical focus.  You can see my bad photos below, but can see her work more clearly on her blog:

I really, really liked her three pieces "Planets We Are One" that are shown on her "Legends, Heroes, Leaders" post on her blog.  We've done some similar things with Maria in Natural Math by reflecting art in mirrors, but her's were much more professional and interesting, of course.

But then I came to an exhibit that made me think even more about Maria:  an exhibit entitled "Baskets:  Billie Ruth Sudduth Meets Fibonacci."  You can't get much more math-y than that!  The Fibonacci sequence (the number plus the number preceding it, such as 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13...) occurs naturally in the wild and often unconsciously in human art and living.  Sudduth, who is based in North Carolina but is becoming a world-renowned basket weaver/artist, weaves her baskets deliberately using Fibonacci sequence number in such pieces as the one below, which I believe was called Fibonacci 3:
Fibonacci #3? Basket

Signature Basket

Once again, you can see much better pictures of her work in the Gallery on her blog.  Her middle school connection is that she came up with this idea when she was teaching a middle school class called
Math in a Basket, which is now available for sale as a book on her website (scroll down towards the end of the page to see it).

Anyway, it really made me think of Maria and all the others who are exploring Math as not just manipulation of numbers on a worksheet, but as a language that informs all sorts of other field--including math.  But they are beautiful things to go see, even if you don't want to make them into a mathematical exploration.


  1. We need this basket weaver to do an event! I was just writing about ethnomathematics for the NASA project. The thing is, you can program a pattern like this into your robot and make your habitat beautiful without much human attention... Of course, discovering the beautiful pattern in the first place takes an artist. I hope to catch the next Last Friday. This one was spent on Mars (virtually).

  2. She lives in North Carolina, and has been designated a "state treasure," or something like that--so maybe we'll see her someday. I had a hard time figuring out the Fibonacci pattern myself, but they are beautiful baskets regardless!

    Madison and I try to go to FF a lot, so maybe you can go with us next month!