When Dr. Carolyn Yackel isn’t teaching math, she often uses math concepts to create art. She was a Mercer University teacher since 2001, around the same time she began to explore her interest in the art of mathematics.
Over the past year and a half, she has participated in a large-scale collective art project at Duke University called “Mathemalchemistry. Most of the 24-artist team will be in Durham, North Carolina this month to work on the installation, which is expected to be completed by the end of July.
Mathematical art involves “knowing a mathematical concept and using it to inform art, or having an artistic concept and using mathematics to inform that art,” Dr. Yackel said. For example, she uses mathematical elements to create intricate patterns for sewing pieces called temari balls, a form of folk art that originated in Japan.
Dr Yackel is primarily a mathematical fiber artist and has edited three books on this art form.
His works include knitting, crochet, digital art, laser cutting, and Shibori dyeing, but his part of Project Duke is dedicated to temari balls.
“Mathemalchemy” is the original idea of a fiber artist Dominique ehrmann and mathematician and physicist Dr Ingrid Daubechies, who invited Dr Yackel to join the project. Dr Yackel, a fan of Dr Daubechies’ work, had heard her speak several times at conferences and knew that a collaboration with her would be amazing.
“We had contacted (Dr Yackel) to include her beautiful temari balls in the first mockup (model), and she was open to the idea from the start,” Ehrmann said.
The 3D art installation will be 20 feet long by 10 feet wide, Ehrmann said. Visual representations include a lighthouse, books, flowers, the sea, the silhouette of three people, and two ball arches, among many other vibrant and elaborate elements. All parts are now complete and assembly is underway.
“It’s really interesting. It’s so big and complicated. It’s been so much fun working on it because there are so many people working on it, ”Dr Yackel said. “I’m learning a lot more about art, the way artists work, how they put things together and how they think about things. It was really fun.
Dr Yackel was responsible for the ball arches and, with the help of two other people, created 120 temari balls that vary in size, color and pattern. The smaller arc contains 20 visible spheres and uses the mathematical concept of a converging sequence: smaller and smaller diameters add up to a finite total length. The larger arch, on the other hand, is a divergent sequence, which has no limit, and flows into the sea to represent that it will continue, stretching infinitely far.
She finished embroidering her last ball on June 28, arrived in Durham on July 4 and will attend the installation for 10 days.
“Mathemalchemy” will remain at Duke until the end of November, then will be presented at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, from Jan. 15 to May 13, Ehrmann said. The team is in talks with other museums, universities and math-focused organizations to exhibit the artwork in other locations in the United States and Europe.
Once “Mathemalchemy” completes his tour, he will return to Duke and live in the math department, Dr Yackel said.
Dr. Yackel is grateful to participate in this project and to see her research interests in mathematical art supported by the University.
“I am very fortunate to work at Mercer because not only the University but my department reflects my interdisciplinary work,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of places I could have done that. “