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I have two ink and marker drawings in San Diego, awaiting the annual mathematical art exhibit during the Joint Mathematics meeting. Archimedes Chiral and D-branes will be on exhibit, and Archimedes Chiral will also be on the cover of the exhibit catalog. The group that organizes the exhibit is called “Bridges” and they are an exemplar of everything I wish exhibit organizers did. They really really get it right.
The JMM art exhibit is an interesting show. They maintain an electronic version of the exhibit and archives of past years online – you don’t have to be at the meeting to see it.The organizers and jury are very good at striking a seamless balance between artistic expressions by professional mathematicians and mathematical expressions by professional artists. The competitive international call for art helps to maintain the artistic quality at a very high level. The demand for “mathematical sophistication” keeps the exhibit clean and focused on its topic. I believe the integration of artists and mathematicians is helped by a population of practicing mathematicians who are also very serious artists, and by a number of artists and designers with impressive mathematical backgrounds.
I really enjoy the uninhibited approach to materials and style that the mathematicians take when they approach their art. These are very intelligent people with a strong ability to conceptualize (or they wouldn’t be successful mathematicians). When I look at their work I can see that strong clear conceptualization in play. To get that concept into the world they simply do whatever is necessary. Does a certain visualization require hours of modeling on the supercomputer, and is the data more clearly presented folded into origami? Or is the complex topology best achieved by developing crochet patterns and spending many evening hours around the table with fellow mathematicians and yarn? Ok, done.
The result is an exhibit full of refreshing quirks and playful surprises. I’ve always enjoyed STEM labs and offices for the personalities they inherit from the group’s working in the spaces. A research group develops a strong collective identity, reflected in all of the little design and decorative choices in their shared spaces. There’s some of the spirit of mathematics and of many mathematicians and research groups on display at the Joint Mathematics Exhibit. And some great art, and serious math.

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