Math meets Art at the EA/B Fair in NYC

This weekend at the Editions/Artist’s Books Fair Purgatory Pie Press will be exhibiting limited edition letterpress artist’s books featuring my mathematical drawings. I have been collaborating with Purgatory Pie Press for fifteen years and we have published numerous Mathematically themed artworks.

“Box of Growth” is a set of five small accordion books. Each features a series of my counted marking drawings based on different growth patterns created using the Fibonacci Sequence.


Another topic we have explored is Cantor Set. “Infinity Remove” has two sides; one with self-similar gridded marking drawings, the reverse had famous quotes about Infinity.


“Fibonacci Flower” shows the development of a Mathematically generated flower using the Fibonacci Sequence.

61-3Our most recent project is “Box of Chaos” is a series of four paper sculptures with my fractal chaos drawings.


The EA/B Fair is free and open to the public this Friday (November 7, 2014) to Sunday at 540 West 21st Street NYC.

— FibonacciSusan

Chaos – The Movie

It is my personal mission as an artist to illuminate the intrinsic beauty of mathematics in a purely aesthetic realm. Translating mathematical subject matter to the picture plane of my drawings, I strive to enable viewers to appreciate this aesthetic, regardless of their mathematical background. I express the grace and beauty I find in mathematics through symmetries, patterns and proportions in my art. Many of my drawings are related to growth patterns such as the Fibonacci sequence and binary growth. I begin my work process by creating a plan or an algorithm. I make all of the decisions for the work beforehand and make a detailed plan in a large spiral drawing tablet that I refer to as my plan book. After I write out all of the specifications, I generate the actual drawing by hand using the rules from the plan. Through my drawings I hope to express both the aesthetics of my mathematical subject matter, as well as the aesthetics of the process of algorithmic generation.

In the past few years I have become interested in generating drawings using fractal forms based on the repetition of similar shapes. I begin with a largest instance of a shape and incorporate copies scaled by powers of ½. I developed a drawing based on the four quadrants of the Cartesian coordinate system. Each drawing begins with 8 spokes. The line segments fall on the coordinate axes and the lines y=x and y=-x. Once I have drawn the initial shape, each spoke becomes the starting point for a new 8-spoke shape in which the line segments are ½ as long as the original spokes. Then those 64 spokes become the starting point for 8-spoke figures with line segments ¼ the length of the first line segments. Next, the 512 spokes each become the bases for an 8-spoke shape with line segments 1/8 the length of the original spokes. This process creates a circular fractal network of lines. While producing these drawings, I have developed a type of mantra to remember where I am in the drawing. I need to keep count and this becomes quite complicated and rhythmic, especially when I reach the third iteration.

Mathematics and art both enable humans to better understand the world around them by uncovering patterns and structures. Chaos Theory is one of the topics in mathematics that, I feel, particularly throws light on the intricacies of the human condition. Chaos Theory shows that even within apparent disorder there can often be found both order and structure. My investigation took me to the earliest ideas on Chaos Theory. In 1961 Edward Lorenz inadvertently discovered the phenomenon of sensitive dependence on initial conditions by noticing the effect of rounding off decimals had in a computer-generated sequence of calculations for weather prediction. This event marked the (re-) discovery of what is now commonly known as Chaos Theory. I decided to visually interpret this phenomenon in my drawings, by using my basic 8-spoke pattern and continuing with multiple iterations using stencils with a small margin of error. The errors accumulate to create these cloud-like, chaos- derived drawings. If the viewer spends a few moments gazing into what at first appears to be a chaotic cloud they will begin to see the pattern of the fractals develop. There is a hidden structure to these drawings, as well as a sense of growth through time. This process of layering iteration on top of iteration takes weeks of work and through the process the drawings go through interesting changes and developments. I wanted a way to incorporate this sense of time and change into my art. It was time to make a movie.

I started with a fresh large black sheet of paper. Then I installed a digital camera over my drawing table. I began my drawing process, but after each line I took a still shot of the drawing. I continued this process over months. I wanted the movie to have an organic handmade feeling to it so I made a number of changes throughout the process. The frequency with which I photographed the drawing fluctuated. Sometimes I would take a picture after each line, sometimes I would complete a small cycle of lines before taking a picture. This change produced skips and jumps in the rhythm. Occasionally, I moved the camera closer to or farther away from the drawing. I also included myself in the photos as the generating mechanism: there are a few shots where you can see my hands. At a point where the drawing was getting quite complicated, I adjusted the camera so you could see my feet coming and going from view: the drawing was becoming a dance. Leaning over to draw and then pulling away to take a picture created a very physical element to this work and I wanted to express that physicality. Thousands of still digital photographs were taken during the drawing process. These photographs were put into consecutive order and then repeated in reverse to create the sense of both growth and decay. The edited product is a 6 minute video titled “Chaos Night”.

I knew from the beginning of the process that I would add music into the final production. I contacted composer Max Schreier, and discussed the structure and mathematics I wanted incorporated into the music. I wanted to make sure the number 8 played a major role in the structure of the music to mirror the 8 spokes of the drawing. Max agreed to write and perform a 6 minute composition based on these specifications. Influenced by Arnold Schoenberg, he based the music on a series of 8 sequential notes. While the bottom voice of the organ plays a drawn out rhythm associated with the first iteration of the drawing, the violin accelerates with the increased speed of the smaller iterations. The right hand of the organ creates small disturbances, each catalyzed by the random insertions of hands, feet and rulers in the video.

– Susan Happersett

Originally presented at Bridges Art Exhibition – Banff, Canada – July 2009;

Mathematical Art

In this blog, I will be sharing my observations on Mathematical Art that I see in galleries museums exhibitions and art fairs. What is Mathematical Art? I will choose work that meets at least one of the following three criteria: The art

  1. is based on a Mathematical phenomenon, or
  2. it is generated by a Mathematical process, or
  3. it is a personal response to Mathematics by the artist.

JMM – Baltimore 2014

Each year in January, thousands of Mathematicians gather at the Joint Mathematics Meeting (JMM) to discuss current issues in their field.  For the past 11 years, an exhibition of Mathematical Art has been part of the event. This year the Joint Meeting was held in Baltimore at the convention center. The art exhibition was held at one side of the general exhibition hall.


Joint Mathematical Meeting – 2014 Art Exhibition

I have participated in the exhibition five times in the past six years and over that time the exhibition has matured, both in the range of work exhibited, and in the quantity of interesting – or even exciting – work.

Exhibitions like this are really a mixed bag of prints, drawings, paintings and sculpture of all types. You can find full catalogs of the shows online. here I will discuss just a few of my favorites from this year’s show.

Shanti Chadrasekar

Kolam-93X93 is a painting on canvas based on the fractal patterns of Kolam drawings. Shanthi Chadrasekar has incorporated the rules of Indian Kolam drawings into her artistic practice. Kolam drawings are traditionally drawn by women, each day, at the entrance of their homes. In this painting, Chandrasekar has created an elaborate 93 by 93 dot grid with a single thread-like line that gracefully winds around each dot, completely enclosing the dots in a web. I find the intricacy of this painting mesmerizing. Spending a few moments with this work, the viewer feels as though they too could be encircled by this unbroken thread. The patterning on this painting is so dense that a small image of the entire piece will not do justice to the work so I am providing just a close up of a small section.

Chandrasekar - Kolan 93X93 - Paint on Canvas - 24" x 24" (detail)

Chandrasekar – Kolan 93X93 – Paint on Canvas – 24″ x 24″ (detail)

Karl Kattchee

Karl Kattchee has developed a unique process to use Mathematics to create his digital prints. His work starts with hand drawn abstract drawings that are then multiplied and manipulated using  a camera, a computer and a printer. He creates reflections, translations, etc. until the image appears to have fallen into chaos. Kattchee then builds patterns using these chaotic elements. What I find very interesting about these prints is that the whole process begins with what  Kattchee refers to as” abstract automatic drawings”. The freedom of this stream-of-consciousness type of drawing lends a whimsical quality to the initial pictures. After they have been subjected to all of the technical process, they retain a playful quality: the drawings dance across the page.


Karl Kattchee

More about the art exhibition at JMM in Baltimore next time.

– FibonacciSusan