Geeks and Freaks

Math and art combine forces in the Art + Math = X show.

At first glance, the concept for the Art + Math = Xconference doesn't add up. How could those two disparate disciplines be blended? After all, in high school, the free-spirited culture kids and the logical mathletes never seemed to get along.

But there doesn't have to be a divide between the fine arts and mathematics. Need proof? No problem.

Just as the Golden Proportion turns artwork into a mathematical puzzle, musicians rely on an eight-count musical beat that stimulates a listener's mind. Look carefully at folk art such as quilting, and the patterns become exercises in geometry. And anyone who's seen A Beautiful Mind knows that some brilliant number nerds are more eccentric than Salvador Dalí and his avant-garde ilk.

Attempting to bridge the two worlds, Carla Farsi, who is both an artist and an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, dreamed up the conference as part of CU's "Year in Art + Math." Farsi says she hopes a number of people will participate and "become more interested in mathematics, because I feel that many times people kind of don't like to learn mathematics, and it's a big part of our culture." Artists might not always be aware of the specific structure of their work, but often that structure can be understood using tools like numbers, patterns and symmetry. "We try to look at artworks by using mathematical glasses," she says.

Her calculations resulted in the four-day conference, which starts at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 2, with a keynote speech by M.C. Escher expert Michele Emmer, and continues through Sunday, June 5, at various Boulder sites. During the series, other painters, sculptors, musicians, architects, mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists will expound on the overlap between art and math.

While much of the conference requires a registration fee, there are plenty of free events, including a concert at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at the Boulder Public Library, 1000 Canyon Boulevard. And if you decide you just can't get enough of the love affair between art and math, Studio Aiello, 3563 Walnut Street in Denver, will offer an additional week-long workshop beginning Sunday, June 5.

 
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