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Club marries math and art for students, community

Published February 26, 2021
Categories: Academics, Mathematics, Students, Visual Arts
Math art by Eckerd College students

Math art created by Matthew Bajor ’23, Bostony Braoudakis ’21 and Megan Lynch ’21

Math gets a bad rap, according to Matthew Bajor and Megan Lynch, Eckerd College students who are founding members of the Math Art Club at the College.

“Hopefully, math art can make math less intimidating for any student. There’s a real beauty in math and, upsettingly, people are scared of it,” said Matthew, a sophomore math and visual arts student from New York. He was taking Calculus 3 with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Bjoern Muetzel in the Fall Semester when Muetzel discovered his student’s double major, a marriage of two of the professor’s own passions.

The duo began working together with geometric activity tiles on a sculpture that would eventually be featured at the Joint Mathematics Meetings 2021 Mathematical Art Exhibition, which was held virtually from Jan. 6–9. Originally scheduled to be an in-person event in Washington, D.C., the 5,000-member annual meeting was Matthew’s first showcase of math-related work.

Math art by Eckerd College mathematics professor Bjoern Muetzel

Cara DeLacluyse ’22 created this piece by attaching mirrors to the inside of an icosahedron, placing a spherical camera near the center and then transforming the view using a stereographic projection.

Matthew and Muetzel built out of Geometiles® a multicolored truncated tetrahedron with mirrors inside and then used a 360-degree camera to take pictures of the interior. To their surprise, they found they had exhibited an image of a crystal.

A fan of M.C. Escher, Muetzel has always marveled at the beautiful symmetry of nature and art with repeating patterns. Prior to joining Eckerd College in fall 2020, Muetzel was teaching, building Archimedean solids—like the ball sculpture for math exhibitions—and preparing geometry outreach activities for math festivals and high school programs. In his classes at Eckerd, students use 3D printers to make representative sculptures from the solution curves of differential equations.

“Math art is not clearly defined. It can be in choreography, limericks, nature, sculptures and more. Anyplace you can see symmetry and repeating patterns to create a beautiful whole I think could be called math art,” Muetzel said.

Megan and Bostony Braoudakis, a senior marine science and French student from Braintree, Massachusetts, continue to produce fractals for club activities. Muetzel, Matthew and Cara DeLacluyse, a sophomore student from Grayslake, Illinois, are building more Geometiles® sculptures to enter into math art exhibitions in March and another in a virtual exhibition being hosted in Calabria, Italy, in October.

Muetzel said the club will feature math in nature, fractals, tilings and geometric solids—and use new technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality and 3D printing. “The club will also feature an outreach program for local middle and high schools,” Muetzel added.

Matthew’s love for art only grew after he took his first drawing class at Eckerd, and after adding visual arts as his second major, he’s now found joy in the ceramics lab where he works as an assistant. The Math Art Club has made him think more broadly about what he can do with the numbers he’s constantly seeing.

“I want to create sculptures out of equations,” he laughed. “Or maybe I can do something functional like a cup or a bowl that is also a parabolic function.”