ARTS Obispo exhibit in SLO

"Hyperbolic Turtles" by Donna Kandel at Pi ART: A Celebration of Art and Mathematics on display at ARTS Space Obispo.
Photo by Joe Johnston  03-13-10
"Hyperbolic Turtles" by Donna Kandel at Pi ART: A Celebration of Art and Mathematics on display at ARTS Space Obispo. Photo by Joe Johnston 03-13-10 Tribune

Math and art don’t seem to add up as a likely pair, but Arts Obispo combines them in an exhibit that stretches the mind and the imagination.

’’Pi Art” at Arts Space Obispo features work by 14 people: artists inspired by mathematics and creative mathematicians inspired by art. Four high school teachers and two college students, along with area artists, had work accepted for this juried show.

Each entry has a printed explanation that might be over the heads of viewers whose math skills are limited to balancing their checkbook.

Nipomo High math and visual design teacher Donna Kandel’s turtles in block print and pen-and-ink with colored washes are based on Poincare’s desk model of the hyperbolic plane, a branch of non- Euclidean geometry.

Kandel doesn’t expect the average viewer or art lover to understand the principles, saying that when she attended Cal Poly, some of her math professors couldn’t grasp these explanations, telling her it wasn’t their field of expertise.

“Math is so broad right now that people specialize,” Kandel said.

Visual artist Gina Hafemeister noted that math is needed to calculate weaving, as in her hanging structures of woven yarn titled “Asian Reverie Box 1 and 2.” In addition, she used Pythagoras’ theorem for right-angled triangles that stabilize these suspended cubes.

Tirtza Therese Abuan, a math teacher at Morro Bay High, created “Global Pi,” an antique globe with timelines of the history of pi. Images of ancient and modern circular symbols used worldwide are painted onto the surface.

It’s enough to make a viewer’s head spin.

Deborah Spatafore, a visual artist, was inspired by some of Leonardo da Vinci’s notes on calculating a circle. She assembled nine images of Mona Lisa, each with a metal loop that gets progressively smaller.

Another term among the printed explanations is fractals, a fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts that approximate a reduced-size copy of the whole, such as a fern. Ed Foley, a Cal Poly mechanical engineering student, and Robert Fathauer, an artist and puzzle designer from Phoenix, used software to make digital renderings of fractals in nature.

The exhibit includes a variety of medium.

Brian Claverie, who teaches math at Nipomo High, formed a clay analog clock, with algebraic formulas instead of numbers on its face. In ceramics, “I like to be clever, or funny,” he said. Claverie acknowledged math wasn’t his bailiwick, but the inspiration for the clock occurred when his young son was having difficulty reading analog clocks. “You take it for granted, but kids have a tough time with that,” being accustomed to digital, he said.

But the bottom line for Claverie is his joy in working with clay. “It just feels good in your hands,” he said. “It’s fun to play with.”

For many people, math is also fun.

Arts Obispo director Marta Peluso said some high-school students came in recently and spent two hours looking at the art and solving the puzzles that are part of the exhibit.

We had to kick them out because we were trying to close,” Peluso said.

The show ends Thursday. Do the math.