Math is pervasive in the natural world as well as in objects made by people, from buildings to fabric. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, math shapes our lives and perceptions. Represented here are 10 artists inspired by mathematical ideas. They help bridge the gap between those who understand math and those who simply experience its beauty.
I have spent many years as a mathematician working alongside artists and what has struck me is how similar our practices are. I have so often found artists drawn to structures that are the same ones I am interested in from a mathematical perspective. We may have different languages to navigate these structures but we both seem excited by the same patterns and frameworks. Often, we are both responding to structures that are already embedded in the natural world. As humans we have developed multiple languages to help us navigate our environment. — Marcus du Sautoy
Shanthi Chandrasekar is a Maryland-based artist who has been drawing and painting since early childhood. While many of her works are influenced by her Indian heritage, her true inspiration comes from the mystery and majesty of the world around her; her muse lives where the scientific overlaps with the spiritual. Shanthi’s works have been displayed in a variety of locations through the Washington D.C. area, New York City, Pittsburgh and in Chennai, India. Her work is currently at the American Center for Physics and she has an upcoming solo show at the FermiLab Art Gallery in Chicago. She has won Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for Works on Paper, Individual Artist grants from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, MD and the Maryland Traditions Master Apprentice Award to teach Kolam drawing. The Inova Schar Cancer Institutes, Montgomery County and DC Art Bank have purchased her work for their permanent collections. Apart from these, she has won numerous awards in local competitions. Recently, Shanthi ventured into book illustration and has illustrated for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Katha Sagar: Ocean of Stories and the Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple's Sri Ramanujan-An Illustrated Biography. Her pencil illustration for a book on algae will be published in June 2019. She served as the Exhibits Coordinator for the Takoma Park Community Center galleries from 2012-18. She is listed as a teaching artist and community scholar on the Montgomery County’s rosters and continues to teach Indian art at India School.
Robert Fathauer is fascinated by beautiful and complex forms both in mathematics and in the natural world. He is particularly intrigued by intricate structures that exhibit symmetry and regular underlying order. Fathauer was trained as a research scientist, having earned a Ph.D. from Cornell University and worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. His interest in art is lifelong and he has worked in a variety of media. This varied background enables him to explore mathematical ideas and extend them in innovative ways to create unique and highly original prints and sculptures. In recent years, his primary artistic mode of expression has been abstract ceramic sculpture, though he also makes digital 2D and 3D prints. In addition to creating art, he designs puzzles and unusual polyhedral dice, writes books, and organizes group exhibitions of mathematical art.
Faye Goldman has been creating origami for more than 50 years. She was attracted to the art form by its simultaneous beauty and ability to demonstrate mathematical concepts. Her love of mathematics and geometric constructions is mirrored in her modular forms and she is interested in coloring constraints when choosing to make modular models. In 2014 Goldman’s book, “Geometric Origami,” published by Thunder Bay Press, was the first book dedicated to the Snapology technique, a type of origami that uses paper strips. Labeled “Ambassador of Snapology” by Heinz Strobl, the technique’s creator, Goldman has taught it to students around the world. Her work has been featured in numerous exhibits, including OSME^5 (Origami in Science, Math and Education) in Signapore, at international conventions in Colombia, Mexico, Great Britain and at the national conventions of Centerfold, Pacific Coast Origami Convention, and OrigamiUSA, and with The Bridges Organization in Korea, Canada, Baltimore and San Antonio. Her ‘Blue Torus’ won honorable mention at the 2014 Mathematical Art Exhibition sponsored at the Joint Mathematics Convention. In 2018 her ‘Brown and Green Egg – 163’ was selected as one of the 12 monthly models in the 2019 Calendar of Mathematical Imagery, published by the American Mathematical Society. She is the leader of the Greater Philadelphia Paper Pholders, a regional group of folders dedicated to sharing their love of Origami.
Susan Goldstine’s artworks have appeared around the world, in the Exhibition of Mathematical Art at the national Joint Mathematics Meetings and at the international Bridges Conference. She received her A.B. in Mathematics and French from Amherst College and her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Harvard University. She is currently professor of mathematics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she has been on the faculty since 2004, and an associate editor of the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts.
Margaret Kepner is an artist living in Washington, DC. Since her retirement a thirty-year career in Information Systems at the International Monetary Fund, Kepner has been able to concentrate on her longtime interest in finding connections between mathematics and art. She has participated in over 30 juried shows and has exhibited her prints in two solo exhibits. Her work has been included in Mathematics + Art, A Cultural History, Lynn Gamwell, Princeton University Press, 2016. Born in South Dakota, Kepner lived in several states and Japan before her family settled in Oregon. As a child, she loved to make art. Her drawings often involved intricate geometric patterns, and her family predicted she would grow up to design wallpaper. Kepner attended Vassar College where she majored in Mathematics, with minors in Physics and Art History. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude. Throughout her college years, she took studio art, primarily drawing and painting. For her senior project, she created a series of works inspired by mathematics; these were featured in a college show and an article in the Vassar Alumnae Magazine. Following college, Kepner did research in Radio Astronomy at the University of Leiden (The Netherlands) under the auspices of a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. She returned to the United States to pursue a Master’s Degree in Mathematics at NYU, and spent several years teaching math and physics in high school. She worked as a programmer at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before moving to Washington, DC in 1977.
Davide Prete’s work has focused on new technologies such as 3D printing and laser scanning combined with traditional metalsmithing techniques. For his latest projects, mathematical equations (especially Scherk Collins surfaces) provide him with a pretext to connect figurative images with a new language, to discover what he called “a new forms of shamanism.” Prete was born in Treviso, Italy, and introduced to the art of metalsmithing by his father Alessandro and by the sculptor Toni Benetton. He studied jewelry and metalsmithing at the Institute of Art in Venice and, in 2003, obtained a degree in architecture. Prete worked as an architect for several Italian architectural firms, especially with Toni Follina. After meeting his wife in Zimbabwe, he moved to the United States. In 2010 he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture from Fontbonne University, Saint Louis, where he studied under the guidance of Hank Knickmeyer and developed a personal sculptural process, mixing traditional metal casting and new technologies such as 3D printing and laser scanning. He moved to Washington, DC and started working as a professor of fine art later that year and is an assistant professor at the University of the District of Columbia and a lecturer at George Washington University Corcoran School of Art & Design. Prete’s work has been shown in both national and international venues (Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, England, France and the USA).
Elizabeth Whiteley’s artworks are collected by museums such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as universities, corporations, and private collectors. They have been exhibited in over 230 group shows devoted to regional, national, and international art. Whitely has been a speaker at conferences on art and mathematics, moderated a seminar on symmetry at the Smithsonian Institution and authored articles about Dynamic Symmetry. She holds degrees from the Art Institute of Chicago (B.F.A.), Carnegie-Mellon University (B.A.), and Case Western Reserve University (M.S.). Additional biographical information for Ms. Whitely can be found in Who’s Who in American Art.
Robert M. Spann has exhibited his work at the Joint Mathematics Meetings Mathematical Art Exhibitions, Bridges Math Art conferences, and at Mary Washington University and Purdue University. In 2016, the American Mathematical Society choose two of his images to use on their greeting cards. Spann is a retired economist/statistician and holds a PhD in economics and statistics from North Carolina State University. He has also taken graduate mathematics courses at George Washington University. Prior to entering the economic consulting business in Washington, DC, he was an associate professor of economics at Virginia Tech. He has also held academic appointments at the University of Chicago, Montana State University and George Washington University. His current research interests include computer graphics and the application of mathematical and statistical tools to the analysis and production of art images. He has presented papers at national and regional meetings of the Mathematical Association of America and has served as a reviewer for the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts.
Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson works with 3d-printers and laser cutters to produce art that reifies mathematical ideas and objects. Vejdemo-Johansson’s mathematical art was exhibited at the Joint Mathematics Meetings’ art exhibit in 2012 and 2019, at the ATMCS art exhibit in 2012 and at the Bridges art exhibit in 2018. Born in Stockholm Sweden, he got his MSc in mathematics in Stockholm (Sweden), his Doctor rerum naturalium (Dr rer nat) in mathematics in Jena,Germany, and after postdoctoral research at Stanford, St Andrews, the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, and the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, Minneapolis, he is now an assistant professor of data science at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island and doctoral faculty in computer science at the CUNY Graduate Center. In addition to his art work, his research enumerating necktie knots has reached a wide audience through the Qi TV show, newspaper and radio outlets.
Adam Zynger was educated in three disciplines: graphic design, art history and medicine. He has taught art history, art appreciation, and clinical medicine. This background inspired him to consider art and science as intrinsically related modes of discovery. He explored this relationship in a recent Math-Art Bridges exhibit at The Baltimore Convention Center, where he worked with honeycomb tessellation, a feat of nature that expresses organization on mathematical, molecular, physiologic and artistic levels. Likewise, as editor of Artists Equity Newsletter, he published an article that introduced the Baltimore art community to the interrelatedness of these two disciplines. Zynger’s computer-generated fractal art is based on fractal geometry, for which he is indebted to Benoit Mandelbrot, the Master of Roughness and Complexity, other mathematicians and numerous programmers who lured him to the exuberance of its iterative language. Here again he has attempted to provide a link between fractal visual expressions and a plausible reality, not just a beautiful pattern. His postulate is that art, even though only intuitive and anthropocentric, can contribute to better understanding and discovery of nature.