Daina Taimina has crocheted hyperbolic forms to make geometric equations more understandable. In the Yarn Visions exhibition her White Cloud, carried out with the assistance of Latvian volunteers, is accompanied by beautiful pink forms crocheted by residents of Kerava. Exhibition is opened until March 5, 2017, at Kerava Art Museum.
FROM MATHEMATICS TO ART
”I wish I could see now my childhood drawings. I only have my first math exercise books saved by my mother, since I was good at math and hopeless at drawing, as my teacher told her. No one ever taught me how to draw, so I was trying to put on paper objects the way I saw them. According to my grades, what I was seeing was wrong.
The only art instruction I remember from my middle school days was once when we had a substitute art teacher, who happened to be a man who taught drawing for students in the academy of arts for prospective “real artists”. He assigned us to draw a white egg on a white sheet of paper. All he said was – look for shadows, shadows are the ones that define a shape. It was a challenge; I found it an interesting one and spent the whole weekend drawing a white egg on a white sheet of paper. It was my best ever grade in art.
I majored in mathematics and mathematics education. Later I did my graduate work in theoretical computer science, and for 20 years taught mathematics in the University of Latvia for prospective teachers. In the summer of 1997, I started teaching at Cornell University, USA, and I was thinking about how I could teach non-Euclidean geometry to my students investigating the properties of the hyperbolic plane. To understand the hyperbolic plane is the very first step in understanding geometric manifolds, one of “hot” topics in modern geometry. I learned about a paper model idea suggested by the famous topologist, William Thurston, in the late 1970s.
I suddenly realized that I can connect my craft skills with mathematics in order to crochet models of the hyperbolic plane. With my own fingers, I could finally explore the “mysterious property” of hyperbolic geometry: through any point on a given line it is possible to draw infinite amounts of parallel, straight lines. This mysterious experience about infinitely parallel lines was something I still remember from the first time I learned about it myself. Could I possibly imagine in 1997 that the hyperbolic plane will take me to even more mysterious experience – connect me with art some years later? Since 2001, I have participated in many art exhibits in USA, Belgium, Italy, Latvia, and United Kingdom. My idea of crocheting the hyperbolic plane was picked up by The Institute for Figuring, with which I was collaborating for about a year. After that Margaret and Christine Wertheims started their own project “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” that now has involved thousands of crafters around the world. I continued my own explorations of possibilities in crocheting hyperbolic surfaces and wrote a book Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes (AK Peters, 2009).” -Daina Taimina
DAINA TAIMINA was born in Riga, Latvia and received all her formal education there. Her PhD (1990) thesis advisor was Prof. Rūsiņš Mārtiņš Freivalds, world renown for his work in Theoretical Computer Science. For 20 years Daina taught different mathematics courses in the University of Latvia. Since 1996 her professional career has been in Cornell University(USA). She crocheted first hyperbolic plane for using it in geometry class in 1997. Since then she has crocheted many more turning original geometric model into an art piece. Daina has given many public lectures and invited talks, and she has participated in art shows in USA, Belgium, Latvia, Italy, Germany, UK. Daina has written several books in mathematics and a book Crocheting Adventures with the Hyperbolic Planes which in 2012 received Euler Book Prize for “the best book about mathematics for general audience”.
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