Fish Creek, Wis. (October 4, 2021) – Peninsula School of Art (PenArt), 3900 County Road F, Fish Creek, presents a new exhibition, Art by Number, October 9 through November 27, 2021. The exhibition features the works of eight regionally and nationally- recognized artists exploring the intersection of math and art.
Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty.
— Bertrand Russell, 1919
A 2014 study showed that for mathematicians, looking at an elegant equation activates the same area of the brain activated when others see a beautiful painting. While this study offered scientific proof, the connection between art, beauty, and mathematics has long been evident. Art by Number explores this connection through work resulting from or inspired by mathematics.
For many people, math is a class they had to take in school. It is timed multiplication tests, word problems about passing trains, solving for x, and graphing calculators. Day to day, it is figuring tips and taxes or how many inches up from center you need to place the nail to hang your picture in the right spot. Useful, but hardly inspirational. What most of us learned in school are just the basic tools for math, not the spirit of questioning and discovery in service of which they were developed and are still evolving today. It is like being given a compass, binoculars, and hiking boots when you’ve only ever been in a small room, and not being told that thing in the wall is a door to uncharted wilderness.
“Mathematicians are out in that wilderness, using their tools to describe what they see and to answer ‘I wonder’s and ‘what if’s, to think and talk about possible realities that can’t be accessed any other way. It is these sorts of theories, questions, and curiosities that drive the work in Art by Number.” said Catherine Hoke, Executive Director.
Several of the artists, for example, are thinking about spaces and surfaces. Artists have long been trying to create an illusion of space in their drawings and paintings using systems of perspective. Dick Termes studied them all and became expert in six-point perspective. While other perspectives allow artists to show the scene in front of them or even to the sides, with six-point perspective Termes can show a space in its entirety—front, back, left, right, top, bottom. He paints on globes he calls Termespheres, describing them as
“An inside-out view of the total physical world around you on the outside surface of a hanging and rotating sphere. If you were on the inside of this sphere, the painted image would appear normal, but it is read from the outside.”
The Termesphere included in the exhibition, Parts of the Whole, is itself a lesson in perspective systems. It shows seven artists in a room, each using a different system. As more points are included, more of the scene is captured.
While Dick Termes is portraying space on the surface of a sphere, Henry Segerman is transferring a pattern from a sphere to a flat surface using stereographic projection, a method of mapping that uses one-to-one correspondence. Imagine a globe resting with its South pole on an infinite sheet of paper. Each city on the globe can be transferred to a spot on the paper along a straight line that starts at the north pole and goes through the city to the paper. Cities on the South pole would end up looking very close together, while those toward the North would look far flung. However, the highways intersecting them would form the same angles. Segerman’s sculptures elegantly illustrate this phenomenon by placing an LED at what would be the North pole of a pierced spherical shell. The light rays act like the imagined lines, casting shadow patterns on the pedestal.
We’ve talked of flat and spherical surfaces, but Gabriele Meyer works with yet another kind. Her hyperbolic surfaces curve in two directions from every point, like a saddle or a Pringle chip. She does this by crocheting around weed-whacker string, adding stitches as the work spirals outward, creating beautiful, ruffled sculptures suspended in air like floating sea creatures. Meyer, who teaches at UW-Madison, will give a talk on their construction and the peculiarities of hyperbolic space during the opening reception on Friday, October 8, at 5pm.
“In math if you want to prove something really beautiful, you have to understand the structure,” she explains. “And the structure means you understand the beauty of an object and with that knowledge you often times can make a very important and deep proof. That’s why beauty matters tremendously in mathematics.”
Art by Number is free and open to the public daily, Monday through Saturday, 8am-5pm through October and Tuesday through Saturday in November. Program and exhibition information are available by calling 920.868.3455 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information on the exhibition and other programs can be found at www.PeninsulaSchoolofArt.org.