Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mathematic Bliss

Every night after work, I bike home past the Math Department's LeRoy Cowles Building, which is connected to the T. Benny Rushing Mathematics Center on the northwest side. From the outside, the Center is pleasant enough: a light-filled, red sandstone structure that complements the original building, with a contemporary University of Utah architectural style (an example, another, and another).

I rarely stop to look inside, which is a shame because within is a magnificent, multi-storied installation of math-related artwork by Utah artist Anna Campbell Bliss. It's visually engaging, intellectually stimulating, playful and whimsical, even. This got me thinking about the relationship between math and art in general.

So, I did a library catalog basic (general keyword) search for math and art. One title in the results, "Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art" caught my eye. In the catalog record, in the left column, I saw the subject heading mathematics in art. When I clicked on that link, the catalog brought back five more books, including "Art for a House of Mathematics", a book about Anna Bliss' installation. Jackpot!

While looking at the catalog records for those six books, I continued to click and follow lots of interesting subject headings which led to more subject headings (and so on). I never would have come up with all these concepts on my own:
  • mathematics--pictorial works
  • mathematics in architecture
  • geometry in art
  • art--mathematics
  • symbolism of numbers
  • Islamic art and symbolism
  • decoration and ornament--mathematics
  • repetitive patterns (decorative arts)
  • fractals
Really, I could go on and on. Following subject heading links is a fantastic way to find additional, related resources. It can also help to build your vocabulary about a topic.

Now I'm going to curl up with a good book I found, "Gödel, Escher, and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid".

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