Art Museum Show Opens with Pi, and Pie, This Saturday

An unusual convergence of math and art — and pie — is taking place at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art this Saturday.

First, on March 14, the museum kicks off a new show, “A Gift of Knowing: The Art of Dorothea Rockburne.” Rockburne has based her artistic practice on geometry and topology, mathematical disciplines she studied with the legendary mathematician Max Dehn (1878-1952). Dehn was a renowned German mathematician and a close friend of Albert Einstein (whose birthday also happens to be March 14).

Second, Saturday is also Pi Day, a day to honor the world’s most famous mathematical ratio. What’s even more exciting, is that at 9:26:53 a.m., and again at 9:26:53 p.m., our calendars and clocks line up with the first 10 digits of pi: 3.14.15 9:26:53, or 3.141592653. This only happens once every 100 years.

To celebrate the remarkable confluence of numbers and beauty, the Museum of Art will serve visitors pie. At 9:26:53 a.m., of course.

Jennifer Taback, Bowdoin professor of mathematics, worked with the museum’s curator, Joachim Homann, to organize “A Gift of Knowing: The Art of Dorothea Rockburne.” The show includes some of Rockburne’s early pieces and more recent drawings, watercolors and collages — a few of which the artist completed for the exhibition.

Rockburne’s later pieces connect mathematical theories to the movements of the planets and to the light captured by deep-space telescopes. The exhibition will include a series of 2009-2010 paintings, “Geometry of Stardust,” and colored pencil drawings of her “Watermill Series,” which will be exhibited for the first time. Also on view will be the drawing, “The Mathematical Edges of Maine,” which was inspired by the artist’s travels in Maine last summer.

Rockborne is giving Bowdoin’s Santagata lecture on April 20, 7:30 p.m., in Kresge Auditorium.

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