Reub's journey

14 September 2011

Math and I

I like to think of myself as a creative person. And by that I mean I'm also not bad at math and have some analytical skills. Who is it that perpetrates the myth that artists can't think straight? Perhaps artists themselves? After all, what artist doesn't want to think of herself as either a bohemian, a rebel, a misfit, or a contrarian? (I see by the little red dots that I just made up the word "contrarian" but you know what I mean.)

Math and I, we go back a ways. My father was brilliant in math but never had the chance to finish college. Instead he dropped out to support his father, one of Louisiana leftist Huey Long's creative, disgraced book keepers. The family fled Louisiana and got off the train in Wisconsin, so different and far away that it was like a foreign country to them.

Vetruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci
Grandpa-as Huey Long knew- was very good with numbers, and it was supposed to run in the family. But my eldest brother showed little aptitude; I remember slouching in my bedroom and listening to my father downstairs, frustrated and angry, yelling at him about how easy the quadratic equation is.

I vowed to myself never to ask for help with math homework: n.e.v.e.r. I did my own math, then like a moth to flames, gravitated towards art-and teaching- unheard of within the family and quite misunderstood.

Michael Beutler's "Outdoor Yellow-13" in the Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt, Germany
Math and art, after all, are old friends. Artists are very analytical. It's what they do all day, every day. Any piece of art is an exercise in problem-solving and that exquisite, elusive thing known as judgment.

Cookie-pie chart courtesy of Flowing Data .

Even if one never really embraces math, you can't get away from it. The same can be said for art. They live in the same house.


  1. And then there is fractal "art."

    I think of Huey Long as simply a demagogue rather than a person of political conviction, but that's neither here nor there, I suppose, although I am fascinated to learn that you have Southern roots, as it were.

    Speaking of neither here nor there (is that a Southernism?) Louisiana has carefully preserved the bullet holes that are in the granite wall (if my memory serves me, the wall is granite) next to where Long fell.

  2. neat post. something to muse on... :)

  3. I agree completely! Art, math, science, language, history--all brilliant thinkers prove that they go together.

  4. Snow: I think there is a professor at the U of O who has analyzed Jackson Pollack's works and found that they are often fractals. Crazy.

    My father's family originated in NYC, lived in LA for some years, and then WI. They rarely spoke of LA. It wasn't until John & I went to live in Alabama for 9 years that I began to get a feel for the South.

    twg: yep. 'swhat I was doing here, musing.

    Chrystal: Did you just call me brilliant?

  5. Math and I never really got along, but I think it's more of a misfire in my brain somewhere.

  6. Oh, goodness, nine years in Alabama. I hope it was the pretty mountainous part, at least. I spent 36 years in Mississippi.

  7. I love this post - you are really in blog groove you know that? Your posts are fantastic, all of a piece, artful.

    I love math and I think of myself as a very creative person. Math is one of the root languages, like Greek, Arabic, Hebrew. It is so cool!!

    Artists channel some kind of flow, don't ask me for the language of that flow (maybe a math person could create an equation to describe it). It is a crazy making, addictive flow. That's why people think we are crazy.

  8. Music, maths and medicine are very close bedfellows, did you know that?

    Perhaps you have a talent for all three?

  9. Captain: I can't believe your brain misfires; I think you're pretty much right on, all of the time.

    Snow, We were half way between the hills & the gulf coast, so it wasn't that hard to drive to either of those beautiful places when we wanted (although a much longer haul than it is now to get to the Cascades or the Pacific).

    Reya< why thank you, that's a cool thing to say: a blog groove! If that's true, then maybe it's because I've been reserving most of my really dumb, inane, or pointless thoughts for other venues, like FB and Twitter, the "B" and "C" teams of my online presence:)

    Friko: I'm aware of the link between maths and music, but didn't know about medicine. I sure do like music, but have no real talent as a performer. My hubby is the family's musician, as was his mother and sister before him.


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