Art exhibit offers a new way of looking at math

Two local artists rely on equations, number theory

Contributing Culture WriterFebruary 14, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    Gallery Hop

    When: 5-8 p.m. Feb. 15

    Where: Various downtown and Chevy Chase galleries. For a complete list and more information, visit Galleryhoplex.com.

    Exhibit mentioned in this story:

    When Math and Art Collide, work by Gena Mark and Robert Carden. Feb. 15-April 10. Gallery hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. Living Arts and Science Center, 362 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Free. (859) 252-5222 or (859) 255-2284. Lasclex.org.

There's a modern perception that art people and math people aren't the same people. But throughout history, this wasn't the case.

Ancient Greeks and Egyptians used Pythagoras' golden ratio in creating aesthetically pleasing artworks, and Renaissance painters studied complex math to create three-dimensional scenery on a two-dimensional canvas.

On Friday, during 2013's first Gallery Hop, the intersection of art and math will be explored at the Living Arts and Science Center in an exhibit titled When Art and Math Collide.

The exhibit features the pen-and-ink drawings of Robert Carden and the bright, geometric quilts of Gena Mark. Both are Lexington artists who depend on mathematical principles to create their artwork.

For Mark, 49, an Indiana native with a master of fine arts degree from Indiana University, the math begins in the earliest stages of her quilting process.

"It starts with the dyeing," she says. "I use mathematical equations to determine the amount of dye, salts and soda ash needed. It has to be a certain percentage depending on the amount of water and the weight of the fabric."

Once Mark has chosen a color palette and dyed her fabric, she chooses a pattern and begins to sketch her overall design, which some viewers have compared to brightly hued kaleidoscopes.

"I like to use traditional patterns as my base and make them modern and more abstract," says Mark, who moved to Lexington 10 years ago. After a 15-year hiatus from professional crafting to raise her children, she received an emerging artist award last year from the Kentucky Arts Council.

"Once I get my design, then I have to put it all on graph paper," she explains. "Then I have to determine the size and the pattern pieces for the size."

"It's more simple math than the other artist uses in his work," she says, referring to Carden, whose drawings are direct representations of mathematical patterns and number theory.

Carden, 49, is a native Lexingtonian and self-taught artist with 25 years experience. His work has been exhibited at Good Foods Market and Cafe, ArtsPlace and the Central Library and at several mathematics conferences around the country.

"I started out painting Tyvek (paper-like) jackets and doing collage painted squares," Carden wrote in an email. "After that my artwork quickly evolved into being purely geometrical and mathematical hand-drawn and hand-designed black-and-white pen-and-inks."

"I enjoy studying number theory, such as prime numbers, or other patterns of numbers, or creating my own patterns of numbers." Carden wrote. "I always try to convert that to visual artwork.

Showing nine pieces from three different series, Carden's drawings are either ruminations on or direct representation of complex mathematical concepts.

Each work in the Little Monsters series, for instance, resembles a quilt but is actually made of fractals, or patterns created from mathematical series.

Another series graphs different sets of numbers into triangles, and the third is a visual representation of the results of the card game War.

The Living Arts and Science Center will use Mark's and Carden's work as learning opportunities for its constituents to explore the relationship between art and math.

The commonalities and differences between the pair's work is striking, gallery director Jeffrey Nichols said during the exhibit's installation.

"Just setting up the show right now and seeing the contrast between the vibrant colors of Gena's work and the crispness of Robert's," he said, "it's going to be a really beautiful."


IF YOU GO

Gallery Hop

When: 5-8 p.m. Feb. 15

Where: Various downtown and Chevy Chase galleries. For a complete list and more information, visit Galleryhoplex.com.

Exhibit mentioned in this story:

When Math and Art Collide, work by Gena Mark and Robert Carden. Feb. 15-April 10. Gallery hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. Living Arts and Science Center, 362 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Free. (859) 252-5222 or (859) 255-2284. Lasclex.org.

Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.

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