Technically Beautiful


Technically Beautiful: The Intersection of Math & Art

With work by George Hart, Edmund Harriss, Veronika Irvine, The Oakes Twins and Paul Salomon.

By employing mathematical ideas — from simple algorithms to abstract ideas — important innovations arose in the world of art. Whether it be through the use of geometry to incorporate perspective during the Renaissance, the disruptive architecture of Frank Gehry, or the analysis of geometrical forms and structures that undergird the works of Piet Mondrian, mathematics has been a tool that artists have drawn upon to inform their work. Recently, there has been a growing community of artists who see math as more than a tool to be used in the service of art, but rather math as platform where one can create and understand art. Central to much of this work is the notion that in structure, there is beauty.

Edmund Harriss

Mathematics can be enlisted to create stunning works. When confronted with these pieces, viewers naturally wonder “how did this piece come into being?” while also giving the viewer a chance to be affected by the piece itself. In other words, the visual structures that emerge from mathematics can be simultaneously analytically satisfying and aesthetically arresting. And it is precisely here — at this intersection of analytic thinking and aesthetic pleasure — where we see the the show being situated. As we said: in structure, there is beauty.   

There are too many people who see the practice of mathematics as applying set procedures. For them, mathematics has no beauty, creativity, or personality. It has no emotional component. It is a black-and-white: either you’re right or you’re wrong. It is a discipline used by others to approximate the physical world–but on its own, it is esoteric and uninteresting. We want to combat all these misconceptions about mathematics. Math isn’t black and white, but vibrant and nuanced. We feel mathematics: we experience the elation of discovery and see how creativity has a huge role in problem solving. We see mathematics: we peer deep into the structures that undergird mathematical reality and declare them beautiful. We become personally intertwined in mathematics: curiosity pulls us in.

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The Oakes Twins

With this interdisciplinary exhibit, we have an environment to bridge that gap, and help people of all ages see that creative work and analytic work are not mutually exclusive. Indeed they often are one and the same. We hope to show students with a love of the arts that mathematics can be one way to inform their own artistic expressions, while we hope to show students with a love of mathematics that the work they are doing can have an aesthetic component if they are willing to look for it and shape it.

– Brendan Kinnell, Sam Shah and Liz Titone, curators


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