Thursday, August 13, 2015

BRIDGES in Baltimore, Grand Tour Part Four

Washington Monument in the Mt. Vernon section of Baltimore, MD

I drove into Baltimore to participate in BRIDGES, an international conference about Art & Mathematics.  Prior to our arrival, the art on view ( including two of my recent works ) was being exhibited at Towson University just north of the city.  Taking part in the proceedings, I went in to learn more about this interesting confluence of mathematical knowledge as it applies to visual art.  There are certainly landmarks in this genre for me, including Albrecht Durer's print Melancholia,  M.C. Escher's art, and more recently Sol Lewitt, who is one of my favorite contemporary artists.

Artwork at BRIDGES including
my prints - Fireworks and  Response
at the center

When I first arrived at the conference they were still unpacking the art, and I found my two works still sitting on the floor.  They were among the larger works in the show and since we were in the Law School of the University of Baltimore, they were not equipped to give a show of visual art a proper venue, so visitors negotiated around tables filled with works of art on small easels.

Stellated geometric model

The BRIDGES conference and art exhibition engages artists and mathematicians to different degrees.  Both art and math rely on different kinds of analysis for their success - in the visual arts it is traditionally more intuitive and mathematics is more logical ( thus provable ).  For visual artists the proof is in the painting or sculpture and the path it takes to make a work of art is more internal and subjective.  Math strives for objectivity - something even eternal - especially if you consider Einstein and his equation E = mc^2.

Reza Sarhangi's Kokabi Stars
Tiles, 2015

I try to bring math and art together in my artwork and I know it is a hard sell for some people - but wait - there is a lot of beauty found in the functions of mathematics - consider the symmetry of a flower, or the ripples in a pond ( a physical effect governed by mathematical rules ).  I come at a study of math through my love of nature, and the path that leads me is influenced by the process of using a computer - a process that is applied mathematics for visualization.

At the BRIDGES site in the Law School, there were many rooms set aside where you could sit and get a lesson in the structures of tiles, or the use of mathematical functions to create forms that would then materialize through the use of 3D printing techniques.  In the BRIDGES exhibition over a hundred artists were represented and many of the artworks were about some form of symmetry.

Art by Jean Constant
Cayley Cubic, mixed media on canvas

I enjoyed talking with Jean Constant, an artist who employs mathematics in a similar way to my experiments over the past ten years.  We are both discovering form, and the paths towards building new and unexpected shapes which we can call algebraic or implicit surfaces ( see the image above ).

In the exhibition I also found a image that reminded me of my early explorations using mathematics to determine 3 dimensional form, and it was a collaborative piece by Roice Nelson and Henry Segerman ( see below ).

Roice Nelson and Henry Segerman
Hyperbolic Catacombs
Digital Print

Maybe for the next conference the organizers could strive for a better balance in the presentations.  I realize that a goal for visual artists is in their exhibitions, and the goal for mathematicians is the publishing of their papers - all of which requires study and practice.  You can not be complacent if you expect to get anything out of this mixture of art and math, you can't be passive, you have to actively engage - or  otherwise the art just looks like overly detailed handiwork.  This artwork reveals itself slowly, it is deep and there are many layers with which to engage.

Baltimore monuments