Houston Matters

Where Math Meets Art: The Multiverse of Artist Michael Petry

If you saw last year’s Best Picture nominee, The Imitation Game, you’re familiar with the story of Alan Turing. Turing was a British mathematician and computer scientist who helped crack the Nazi’s enigma code, which helped win World War II. And he’s considered one of the fathers of computer science. Often, when we think about […]

If you saw last year’s Best Picture nominee, The Imitation Game, you’re familiar with the story of Alan Turing. Turing was a British mathematician and computer scientist who helped crack the Nazi’s enigma code, which helped win World War II. And he’s considered one of the fathers of computer science.

Often, when we think about mathematicians like Turing – and math in general – we think about it as something very different from the world of art and creative expression. We might consider them functions of two different sides of the brain – as if analytical and expressive abilities are mutually exclusive.

But artist Michael Petry is proof to the contrary. Petry double majored in both math and fine art at Rice University. And he’s incorporated elements of math into some of his work, including his piece AT the Core of the Algorithm.* It features clusters of blown-glass spheres in a variety of colors, suspended at different intervals from the ceiling making them almost look like floating balloons or colorful soap bubbles. Their arrangement might seem random, but Petry used an algorithm to govern both their positions and colors, which was part tribute to Alan Turing and part nod to his fascination with mathematics.

The work is on display through May 30 at the Hiram Butler Gallery. Houston Public Media’s Troy Schulze caught up with Petry at the gallery to talk about the exhibit and how Petry intersects math with art.

(*The AT is capitalized to emphasize the initials of Alan Turing. Installation photos courtesy of Hiram Butler Gallery)

MORE: Extended Conversation with Michael Petry (Houston Public Media, April 14, 2015)

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