“Vestiges & Verse: Notes from the Newfangled Epic” at the American Folk Art Museum

It may seem unlikely to find Mathematical Art at a Folk Art Museum. The current exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum in NY features the work of what is often referred to as “outsider artists”. This term is controversial because it is very subjective what and who is inside or outside the standard “Art World”. It often means artists who have no official art training and are self taught or artists with medical or psychological or social situations that creates a position of isolation. There were two artists included in this exhibition who possessed  an intense interest in mathematics.
Paul Laffoley’s large painting “The Living Klein Bottle House of Time” from 1978 presents a fantastic  schematic for life inside a Klein Bottle, complete with schematic diagrams. This painting offers us a unique perspective on Mathematics and society.
Jean Perdrizet’s  series of diagrams for “La tour logarithmique (The logarithmic tower)” show the artist’s desire to create a object to solve mathematical logarithmic problems. The intense drawing and numbering reveal the emotional urgency of Perdrizet’s mission.
I have been writing this blog for a few years now and one of the things that I have learned is to look for art with Mathematical themes everywhere. I was so happy to discover these two amazing works, I feel they have a lot to reveal about how different people relate to Mathematics regardless if the artists are inside or outside the standard norms of Math or Art.
Susan Happersett
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