I found $x$: it’s in Honolulu.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my math trip to Banff. I immediately continued my sabbatical travels in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I met with two other collaborators for two weeks. I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to hear about how much fun I had sitting at the beach, sipping a Pina Colada while coding in Sage and unraveling a paper by Kontsevich. In the spirit of not bragging too much about my awesome math traveling, I decided I would instead focus on a math-inspired art exhibit I saw while I was there, called Finding $x$.

The exhibit was at the Honolulu Museum of Art and explored the use and expression of mathematics through art. The Spalding House venue (there are several venues connected to the Museum) is focused on more educational exhibits. Last year, for example, they had an exhibit about art and literature. The cool thing is that they pick a topic and then find pieces in their existing collection that fit that theme. What I really like is that it’s still about art, but also on how art can be inspired by things like literature and math. As an educational exhibit, it was geared to younger students, and there is even a student tour booklet with activities and questions, and there were some hands-on activities scattered throughout. In this photo-blog, I wanted to walk you through the exhibit, and show some of my favorite pieces.

There were five sections of the exhibit, exploring different mathematical concepts expressed in art:

The Tally: This portion focused very literally on how numbers are represented (or just written down) in art.

Jonathan Borofsky, "Excerpt from Infinity".

Jonathan Borofsky, “Excerpt from Infinity”.

My favorite thing about the piece above is the title, honestly. The piece I preferred in this section was the following one, by Micah Lexier, in which the numbers listed are cut in such a way that their surface area is always the same.

tally2Faces and Places – Perspective: This collection, as you may have already guessed, dealt with the ideas of proportions and perspective in art. It had many portraits, landscapes and buildings. The paintings were pretty traditional, but the part I enjoyed the most was an interactive station where they took you step by step through the drawing process that lies behind some of the shapes and perspectives in the paintings featured. It certainly made me think differently (more mathematically, perhaps) about the paintings I was looking at. Here is an example of my own artistic endeavor.

Face on the right courtesy of yours truly.

Face on the right courtesy of yours truly.

Textile 1010101: This collection of woven textiles explored the idea of design with a binary color structure (although there were sometimes more than two colors).

Filipino Tinguian Shaman blanket.

Filipino Tinguian Shaman blanket.

The tapestries were very cool, and at the end there was a “make your own tapestry” station (which I enjoyed, but did not take a picture of) and a big board, pictured below.

The make your own binary pattern station. Featuring Michelle Manes, from University of Hawaii at Manoa (and who helped with the infinity colletcion, featured next).

The make your own binary pattern station. Featuring Michelle Manes, from University of Hawaii at Manoa (and who helped with the infinity collection, featured next).

To no end/Show your work: This collaboration between mathematics and art faculty at UH Manoa dealt with trying to picture the concept of infinity. It included a very large (and obviously truncated!) Gabriel’s Horn, an example in calculus of an object with finite volume and infinite surface area. I personally loved the fractal tree, which expands every day (at the end of the day pieces get added).

A perspective on the infinite tree.

A perspective on the “infinite” tree.

The shape of things: Perhaps the most abstract of the five, this one explored the use of elementary shapes and geometry in paintings and sculptures. It featured a Mondrian (of course!) and many others. It certainly inspired me to get creative and take the following self-portrait.

Yours truly, and you can see much of the exhibit in the reflection too.

Yours truly, and you can see much of the exhibit in the reflection too.

I loved the exhibit, especially the educational and outreach possibilities (which the museum seems to be taking full advantage of). I leave you with two images of the student tours in action.

Kids playing with giant Tangram near the entrance.

Kids playing with giant Tangram near the entrance.

A student tour working on an activity about shapes (behind a spirograph by Agnes Denes called "Probability Pyramid Study for a Chrystal Pyramid"). The kids were, in fact, working on their own spirographs.

A student tour working on an activity about shapes (behind a spirograph by Agnes Denes called “Probability Pyramid Study for a Chrystal Pyramid”). The kids were, in fact, working on their own spirographs.

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One Response to I found $x$: it’s in Honolulu.

  1. Annette Emerson says:

    Thanks for sharing the photos and your impressions! My favorite work is the “infinite” tree.

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