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Art + Math

April 15, 2014

Hat Top 2014 Mi-Teintes watercolor paper and hand-blown glassA lot of artists don’t consider themselves good at math, and many mathematicians and scientists don’t seem interested in art, but there are always exceptions, and as more and more studies show, arts education positively impacts student performance in other subjects. And whether you realized it or not, mathematic principles have influenced artists for centuries: M.C. Escher was inspired by tesselations and polyhedrons, and the Golden Ratio can be found in works by Leonardo da Vinci and Georges Seurat.

This week, we get to see mathematics applied to mediums of paper and glass sculpture at Lunch with the Arts. Erik and Martin Demaine will give us their artistic and mathematical take on origami – not paper planes and cranes, but curved-crease origami sculptures.

This father-and-son team has been experimenting with folded paper, glass and other materials for years, creating breathtaking sculptures like the one pictured here. They both teach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Erik is a professor ofcomputer science and Martin is an instructor in the MIT Glass Lab.

Erik creates his paper sculptures from one sheet of paper, with a single hole cut in the middle. When folded along curved creases, the paper folds itself into a natural equilibrium, which he then contorts into different forms. Some of them are placed into complex glass-blown sculptures made by his father, Martin Demaine, similar to ships in glass bottles.

“As scientists we are concerned with how to best communicate new discoveries and processes,” says Erik on his website. “We use sculpture as a way to express our research to a broad audience, illustrating the beauty of mathematical structures… We find that the dialog between our scientific work and our artistic work inspires both our art and science in directions that would not be possible in isolation.”

Our Lunch with the Arts coordinator Joan Stansbury first heard about the Demaines in an Advocate Messenger article about their upcoming visit to Centre College.

Erik Demaine
Erik Demaine
Martin Demaine
Martin Demaine

“The pictures of their intricate designs and the idea of combining art and mathematics piqued my interest,” said Stansbury. “It’s a unique combination that we haven’t addressed yet at our luncheons, and I’m sure people will find it interesting and thought-provoking!”

Their work can be found in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The Demaines have also appeared in the 2008 documentary “Between the Folds” and were joint recipients of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013.

Lunch with the Arts is a recurring program that features performances and presentations by a different visual, musical, literary or dramatic artist the third Wednesday of each month.

Check out our schedule now so that you don’t miss future events. Coming up in May, we’ll get to see the Meadowlarks perform live!

Lunch with the Arts: The Art and Mathematics of Origami with Erik and Martin Demaine
Wednesday, April 16, noon
$5 at the door for program only (early registration, which includes lunch from Lulu’s Tavern, has closed)