Visualizing Symmetry: How I Use Symmetry Groups in My Art

On Thursday, April 9, 2009, Dr. Gwen Fisher delivered the Annual Pi Mu Epsilon Lecture - Visualizing Symmetry: How I Use Symmetry Groups in My Art.

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Both mathematicians and artists employ the concept of symmetry. In mathematics, the study of symmetry groups plays a central role in both algebra and geometry. Finite symmetry groups, in particular, include two- and three-dimensional point groups visible in flowers and pinwheels. In three dimensions, the point groups fall into two categories. First are the prismatic groups and their subgroups, and second are the groups and subgroups of symmetries of regular solids, including the tetrahedral, the cube-octahedral, and the icosahedral groups. Infinite symmetry groups include the frieze and wallpaper groups. In art, like in geometry, objects having these symmetry groups are aesthetically intriguing. I will present artistic representations of objects that embody these symmetry groups, including woven bead sculptures and fabric quilts. Time permitting, I will show how I have recently represented other mathematical concepts with beads, including fractals and topology.

About the Speaker

Dr. Gwen L. Fisher

Dr. Gwen L. Fisher has used artwork as a means to present complex mathematical ideas in visual forms as a Mathematics Professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She received her PhD in Mathematics Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001. She is keenly interested in the intersection of mathematics and visual art, creating quilts, beads, and watercolors. She has been a contributor and editor for several math and art publications. Some of her quilts are exhibited at the Mathematical Science Research Institute, the prestigious mathematical research center in Berkely, CA. Her current favorite medium for artistic expression is woven beadwork. Her beadwork is showcased at her website