Art Exhibition: Golden Section 2017

Yesterday, artists from the Golden Section of the Mathematical Association of America contributed to yet another art exhibition!  Each Spring, members of the MAA from Northern California, Nevada, and Hawaii attend a regional conference — this year, at Santa Clara University.

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Woven, by Nick Mendler.

Last year the event was held at the University of California, Davis, and Shirley Yap from California State University, East Bay organized a highly successful exhibit — what we believe to be the first art exhibition ever to be a part of a sectional MAA meeting.  I asked Shirley to say a few words about what motivated her to take on this task.

I exhibited an art piece at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in 2016. It was an interactive piece and I wanted to see how people would experiment with it.  So I just hung around the exhibit for a while and not only saw how people played with my piece, but how they observed other pieces. The kind of delight that came from people’s faces convinced me that the art was really drawing them to math in a way that was different from how I had seen before. Perhaps because one is expected to sit in front of art for a long time to contemplate it, people felt relaxed enough to enjoy it.  Whatever it was I saw, I knew that I wanted to share the experience with others outside of the JMM.

When we put a call for artists out on our Golden Section website, we didn’t get any responses. So I went through years of JMM art exhibit catalogs and looked up each artist to see if they lived in our section.  Then I just started emailing them individually to ask if they were interested in showing their work at a local exhibition.

This year, I offered to help Shirley with organizing the exhibition.  Given what was involved in the second year, I have a new appreciation for Shirley’s dedication to spreading the word about mathematical art.  Such events do not organize themselves — and we are all grateful Shirley took on this huge task to start a new Golden Section tradition.

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Red Mandala, by Frank Farris.

We didn’t have as many artists participate this year — but that’s part of the ebb and flow of yearly events like these.  But the quality has high, as was the enthusiasm of the artists.  Two of the artists this year were undergraduates — Nick Mendler from the Univiersity of San Francisco, and Juli Odomo from Santa Clara University.  I think of them as future organizers of sectional MAA art exhibits….

In the morning, we had the usual opening remarks and a series of excellent speakers.  The art exhibit took place in parallel with the Student Poster Sessions, which took place after lunch from 1:00-2:30.  This was followed by another series of talks.  You can see the full program here.

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Islamic 8-fold Fractal Flower (Median), by Phil Webster.

I asked the artists to say a few words about their experience about creating or exhibiting mathematical art.  Here a few remarks.

Frank Farris (see artwork above):

I love the idea that we’re entering a golden age of mathematical art. New tools become available all the time and a growing community is finding new creative ways to use them. Can’t wait to see what the next years will bring.

I believe the sentiment in Gwen’s quote resonates very strongly with many mathematical artists.

Gwen Fisher:

The thing that keeps bringing me back to bead weaving is mathematics. Of course, I love colors of glass beads and the way they sparkle, but mostly, I keep returning to my seed beads because I keep finding new ways to use and represent mathematical structures with them.

gwenfisher
Pixel Painting Number VI “Sunnyvale Boogie Woogie” by Gwen Fisher.

Nick Mendler (see artwork above):

Since my first sectional meeting last Spring, I’ve continued research into the questions that generated my first mathematical artwork over a year ago.
Recognizing that my projects and thoughts are the most rewarding when realized through an aesthetic process has been not only productive, but has been a fascinating source of guidance to new questions. That focusing on more elegant images brings about more elegant mathematics has been only too clear from the sessions I’ve attended so far; I’m looking forward to seeing and learning from more art pieces!

Interested in organizing an art exhibit in your section?  Since I helped Shirley with the organizational details this year, I can say a bit about what’s involved in putting together an exhibition.

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Intense discussion about mathematical art at the exhibition.

The first step is, clearly, finding artists who want to show their work.  It would be easier to get a student worker to do the search Shirley undertook — but don’t forget about the exhibitions at the Bridges conferences!  Here is a link to both JMM and Bridges galleries.  You can also contact the SIGMAA-ARTS and request that an email blast be sent to members.

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Symmetric Koch Curve I, by Vince Matsko.

As far as the submission process goes, that’s pretty standard.  While it is always nice to accept every submission, sometimes it just isn’t possible.  The works should have some real mathematical content, and be of good quality.

Since not all artists necessarily have business cards (especially student artists), I had the idea of making nametags for those who wanted one.  You can download this nametag template in LaTeX if you would like, then edit and print onto cardstock.  (Note:  WordPress would not let me upload a .tex document, so I saved it as an Open Office document.)

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A Fine Mesh We’re In, © dan bach 2016.

It is a good idea to have an assistant or a student helper in the exhibition venue during the conference.  Not all artists attended the meeting, and so brought in their work at various times during the day.

Shirley had the wonderful idea of arranging a dinner for contributing artists after the conference.  Last year we went to an excellent Thai restaurant, and this year, Frank Farris generously offered to host a pot luck dinner (he provided the lasagna) at his house.  These have been very wonderful events, and give artists the opportunity to get to know each other a little better.

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A subset of the artists at the celebratory post-exhibition pot-luck.  (Photo by Frank Farris.)

Finally, I wanted to mention that I am in the middle of my second time teaching Mathematics and Digital Art at the University of San Francisco.  I say this in the event you are interested in offering such a course at your university.  I have written extensively about this experience on my blog, and also have all course materials as well as a day-by-day outline available on the  Fall 2016 course website.  I would be happy to help you get such a course off the ground if you’re interested.

If you would like more information, or want to get in touch with any of the artists whose work is shown above, please make a comment and I’ll get back to you.  I hope this is just the beginning of a long tradition of having mathematical art exhibits at sectional MAA meetings!

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Vince Matsko

Mathematician, educator, consultant, artist, puzzle designer, programmer, blogger, etc., etc. @cre8math

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