Friday, September 18, 2009

Fractals, Pottery, and the Natural World

I just saw this really neat documentary on PBS about the history of fractal mathematics. They (people much smarter than I) were talking about how fractals allowed mathematicians to measure certain phenomenon in the natural/visual world for the first time. Fractals, basically, are self-similar structures. For example, a tree is basically a branch made of branches, which are in turn made up of their own branches, etc.

Fractals look really cool. As an artist/crafty guy/potter, I'm really interested in why people are attracted to certain designs. So why do fractals look cool? I'm thinking that maybe we first evolved our artistic eyes through certain evolutionary demands. Maybe we like bright, contrasting colors because their a good hint that we are looking at fruit, or fresh meat. And maybe we like fractals because they signal a certain landscape or object that would be conducive to eating, safety, or sex. From this perspective, the role of the artist is to trick you into thinking you're looking at something much more exciting than paint on canvas.

I read an article in Discover magazine where researchers analyzed Jackson Pollock painting for fractal patterns. They found, amazingly, that not only do Pollock paintings closely resemble fractal patterns found in nature, but that they could actually estimate the price of the painting based on the type of fractal pattern it resembles -- and call out fakes that have no fractal pattern. Either I'm a huge art/science nerd, or that is really cool (no comments, please...).

So the obvious question on everyone's mind is -- how can this make me a million bucks? No need to go back to school for that MBA, just find a why to design art that closely resembles our primordial needs from that natural world. I've noticed that my favorite pots remind me of a million different things in the natural world -- kind of like looking up at the clouds and finding shapes.

This is something I want to keep working on as I explore my own personal aesthetic. Stay posted! And check out my Etsy site for my latest work!