Symmetry Works! The Mathematical Art of Symmetry and the Imagination

p4_IrisSpiralSymmetryWorks! is a major interdisciplinary multi-event project at Bowdoin based on the mathematical art of Frank Farris, a mathematician at Santa Clara University. The event begins Sept. 12.

In his book Creating Symmetry: The Artful Mathematics of Wallpaper Patterns, published in 2015 by Princeton University Press, Farris explains a new process for creating art via computational technology based on the mathematical theory of symmetry. During the summer of 2016, two Bowdoin computer science students helped develop open-source software to make the Farris design process accessible to a wider artistic community.

In several events during the three days Monday, September 12, through Wednesday, September 14, Farris will speak about the mathematical foundations of his work, demonstrate the software he has developed, and discuss the creative challenges and opportunities presented by this approach to mathematical art. An exhibit of his work will be mounted in the Gallery of the Edwards Center for Art and Dance and will remain in place from September 12 until September 23.

What follows is a list of the SymmetryWorks! events open to the public.

“Art, Math, and Computer Science: A New Approach to Symmetry”

  • 9/12/2016 | 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
  • Location: Visual Arts Center, Kresge Auditorium
  • Event Type: Lecture

In this lecture, the keynote event of SymmetryWorks!, Frank Farris will speak about the theoretical foundations of his work, the software he has developed, and the creative challenges and opportunities presented by this approach to symmetry-inspired mathematical art.

“Implementing Creating Symmetry: Complex Waveforms”

  • 9/13/2016 | 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
  • Location: Searles Science Building, 217
  • Event Type: Lecture/Seminar

In this lecture/seminar Frank Farris will discuss in more depth the mathematical theory and computer science techniques underlying his approach to symmetry-inspired mathematical art.

SymmetryWorks! – Exhibit Opening, Reception, and Remarks

  • 9/13/2016 | 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM
  • Location: Edwards Arts Center, Miscellaneous
  • Event Type: Art Exhibit Opening

Frank Farris will make brief remarks at this, the official opening of the SymmetryWorks! exhibit of his prints and fabric banners. A reception will follow, allowing time to meet and talk with Farris.

Seminar and Workshop: “Creative Challenges: Artistic Expansions Beyond ‘Creating Symmetry’ ”

  • 9/14/2016 | 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
  • Location: Visual Arts Center, Beam Classroom
  • Event Type: Seminar/workshop

Frank Farris will take the seminar participants through the many variations on making wallpaper patterns and the reasons why they would benefit by teaming up with a knowledgeable programmer when producing such images. He will also give a behind-the-scenes tour of the imaginary landscapes made in Photoshop. There will also be a demonstration of the SymmetryWorks software used to produce such symmetry-inspired mathematical art. The participants are invited to bring laptops to the seminar where they will be able to work with the SymmetryWorks software. Near the end of the seminar interested participants will adjourn to the Digital Media Lab in the Edwards Center for Art and Dance where they can work with the software on the DML desktop computers.

Exhibit: “SymmetryWorks!: The Mathematical Art of Frank Farris”

  • 9/12/2016 through 9/23/2016

Weekdays, 9:00am – 5:00pm

  • Location: The Gallery, Edwards Center for Art and Dance
  • Event Type: Art Exhibit

An exhibit of the work of Frank Farris, both prints and fabric banners, will be mounted in the Gallery of the Edwards Center for Art and Dance and will remain in place from Monday, September 12, until Friday, September 23.


Frank Farris served as Editor of Mathematics Magazine from 2001–2005 and again in 2009, working to continue its tradition of inspiring and challenging teachers and students of mathematics at the undergraduate level.  As Chair of the Council on Publications and Communications, he served on the Executive Council of the MAA from 2010 to 2015. Awards include a Trevor Evans Award for his article “The Edge of the Universe” in Math Horizons, and the David E. Logothetti Teaching Award at Santa Clara University, where he has taught since 1984.  Interests include mathematical art, 2-surfaces in 4-space, mathematical economics, and symmetry.

SymmetryWorks! is sponsored by Visual Arts, Computer Science, Mathematics, and the Digital and Computational Studies Initiative, and supported by grants from the Blythe Bickel Edwards Fund and the Gibbons Summer Research Program.