Word on the street is there’s a very cool exhibit coming to UC Santa Cruz, one that fuses the ancient Japanese art of origami with mathematics. After reading the Sentinel’s article and the UC Santa Cruz News, I’m joining the buzz among parents excited for this unique opportunity to be wowed and learn alongside our children. In other words, I can’t wait!
The exhibit, which runs April 8 thru June 16 at the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery at Cowell College, will feature the original works of world renowned origami artists with the focus being on computational, or math, origami. In fact, it is a tribute to the late David Huffman, UCSC Professor of Information Science and a pioneer of mathematical origami, who also invented the code for the very familiar and practical JPEG. Yes, we owe the .jpg to him!
Computational origami relies on mathematical algorithms to denote where and when to fold on a piece of paper. These algorithms create unbelievable works of art from a simple square! In a recent interview with Good Times, Robert J. Lang, a physicist and origami master, said, “Paper just has a really neat geometry. It has very simple rules; you’re just not allowed to stretch or tear the material – what can you make? It’s pretty tantalizing and also quite deep mathematically; it’s quite tricky to figure out the answers to these problems.”
Now, I’m no stranger to origami. It happens to be our family tradition to decorate our Christmas tree with paper cranes and let me tell you, it remains a challenge every year just to remember how to make the first one. Imagine creating realistic faces, animals, insects, and abstract sculptures under these simple rules: Transform one square of paper by folding. No scissors. No tape. No glue.
The origami exhibit is inspired by the award-winning documentary film Between the Folds. If you have a chance to watch it beforehand it will only make you anticipate this exhibit more. Plus, it stars many of the origami masters who will be at the exhibit’s opening reception on April 8, including Erik and Martin Demaine, Robert Lang, and Brian Chan, along with the works of the late origami wizard, Eric Joisel.
Origami wizard? Why did I not know this was a choice to the age-old “What do you want to be when you grow up” question? Thanks to this exhibit, my kids can consider one more career.
Origami: Art + Mathematics opens with a free artists’ reception at the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery on Sunday, April 8th from 12:30-6 p.m. The exhibit will be up from April 8th to June 16th. For more information and gallery hours, call 459.2953.