Mathematicians routinely use words like “elegant” or “beautiful” to describe results in the discipline, which likely comes as a surprise to those outside the field. Indeed, these terms are right at home in the arts, where we all have an understanding of what they mean in that context. The common perception of mathematics is that it is a cold and static subject, devoid of creativity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The works in this exhibition follow two modes. Some of them, such as the print by Tony Robbin or the book by Helen Hiebert, are directly inspired by mathematics. These artists are not shy about their affinity for the subject, and their work is a direct reflection of the beauty they see in the mathematical universe. Through these artworks, the observer is invited to see through this lens.

The second variety requires some interpretation as the mathematical ideas are less apparent. Above all, mathematicians are interested in understanding patterns and finding the structures that lie beneath. Many of the objects in this gallery demonstrate these ideas—the symmetry in a decorative vase or the arrangement of colors in a painting.

After viewing this exhibition, take a look at other works in the museum with a mathematical eye. You just might see something you had not noticed before.

Written by: Kevin Knudson, UF Department of Mathematics


This exhibition is made possible by The Dr. Madelyn M. Lockhart Endowment for Focus Exhibitions at the Harn Museum of Art, which supports creative collaboration between UF faculty and the Harn. This exhibition is curated by Kevin Knudson, Professor and Chair in the Department of Mathematics, in partnership with Dulce Román, Chief Curator and Curator of Modern Art, and Eric Segal, Director of Education and Curator of Academic Programs.

Robert Morris 131-1 by Alan Cohen