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Linking Art and MathematicsPosted on April 17, 2015 at 10:08pm by Gary Hoachlander

Meet Wyna Liu, a young mixed media sculptor and fabricator I met at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. She combines mathematics, digital fabrication techniques and “fussy hand finishing” to produce sculptures inspired by Platonic solids, Penrose tiling, two-dimensional geometry and three-dimensional space.

I was deeply inspired by Wyna’s art and her approach. How wonderful to hear her describe the connections that she makes between her work as an artist, a sculptor and the role of mathematics in constructing her work. Hers is a wonderful real world example of connecting art to core academics.

For example, Wyna described how Penrose Tiling enables her to use just two shapes to produce a sculpted pattern that is “aperiodic” and lacks “translational symmetry.” Employing Penrose tiling to sculpt these works requires Wyna to develop and follow a number of precise mathematical rules.

She introduced me to a wonderful book, Beautiful Geometry, by Eli Maor and Eugen Jost. It is a spectacular visual history of geometry that connects art and mathematics with clarity, depth, and passion. Whether you’re teaching mathematics, art, or simply interested in the interplay of these two domains, you’re sure to find this a valuable resource. 

Wyna works with the Brooklyn College Community Partnership (http://thebccp.org/), a drop-in after school program for high school and middle school, where she manages the Maker Lab and teaches students to design for and use the laser cutter and 3D printers.  

Of course, I asked her about her high school experience with math and how that influenced her.

She said, "I grew up believing that math and art were almost at odds with each other, and I never felt in high school that geometry was in line with my interests.  How wrong I was! It was only much later that I realized the deep connections between these subjects and the ways math can be used to understand and express the natural world around us."

Wyna’s work is a wonderful testimony to the power of combining head, hand, and heart! Yet, like so many young people, Wyna has had to learn to make the connections between what she learned in school and the work she does, despite her education, rather than because of it. She has succeeded, but too many others do not. Linked Learning has the power to change that! See Wyna’s work at www.wynaliu.com.

 

Photos from Museum of Arts and Design, and Brooklyn College Community Partnership

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