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Playing with Art and Science: Origami, Glass, and Mathematics
Father/son duo Martin and Erik Demaine like to blur the lines between art and mathematics, by freely moving from designing sculpture to proving theorems and back again. Paper folding is a great setting for this approach, as it mixes a rich geometric structure with a beautiful art form. Mathematically, they are continually developing algorithms to fold paper into any desired shape. Sculpturally, the duo have been exploring curved creases, which remain poorly understood mathematically, but have potential applications in robotics, deployable structures, manufacturing, and self-assembly. By integrating science and art, they constantly find new inspirations, problems, and ideas: proving that sculptures do or don’t exist, or illustrating mathematical beauty through physical beauty. Collaboration, particularly as a father-son team, has been a powerful way for them to bridge these fields.
Martin and Erik Demaine are a father-son math-art team. Martin started the first private hot glass studio in Canada and has been called the “Father of Canadian Glass.” Since 2005, he has been an artist-in-residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Erik Demaine, also at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a professor of computer science. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003.
In these capacities, the Demaines work together in paper, glass, and other material. They use their exploration in sculpture to help visualize and understand unsolved problems in science, and their scientific abilities to inspire new art forms. Their artistic work includes curved origami sculptures in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian. Their scientific work includes over 60 published joint papers, including several about combining mathematics and art. In 2013 the Demaines won a Guggenheim Fellowship for exploring folding of materials, such as hot glass.