Artist Profile: George W. Hart

Today I’m excited to introduce a new category of post: the artist profile.  One of my long-term goals for the site is to bring together lovers of geometric art and the people who create it. Soon I hope to start reaching out to my favorite artists and doing actual interviews, perhaps even in a podcast format. But for now, I will ease in by doing brief profiles of some of the geometric artists I have followed over the years.

Disclaimer: This profile is being done without any contact with or consent from George W. Hart. Since I have only good things to say, hopefully he won’t mind. :-)  George, if by any chance you are reading this and have any objections, please let me know right away so I can address them!

George W. Hart – More Than Just an Artist

Before I dive in to discuss Hart’s Art, I would be remiss if I did not mention his many other accomplishments. His “day job” for many years has been as a math professor at various universities. He has also written a wonderful book,
Zome Geometry: Hands-on Learning with Zome Models, which discusses the use of the Zome building system to explore many mathematical topics. (I’ll be writing a post about Zome soon!) He is also in the process of writing a book about polyhedra in art throughout history. Put me on the list for THAT one! Most recently, he has stepped down from math professorship to take on an exciting new project, serving as Chief of Content for The Museum of Mathematics, which will be opening in Manhattan in 2012. Again, put me on the list. :-)

George has an extensive site at http://www.georgehart.com/ where you can read about and see everything I’ll discuss in this post. Rather than link a zillion times throughout the post, I’ll just put this one link here and then refer to pages on his site in plain text.

How I First Discovered George

When I first discovered George’s site it was probably 15 or 20 years ago, and at that time he was not yet producing art, as far as I can recall.  I landed there through my life long obsession with polyhedra, because at the time he had already started building his immense Encyclopedia of Polyhedra, a collection of virtual models of polyhedra (in VRML format). This is an invaluable reference for anyone interested in learning about polyhedra in depth. There is some set up required to view VRML models, but once you do, you can spin them and zoom them, including traveling inside the models, which can be very instructive. Much fun! I wager I spent more than a day’s worth of time there throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Hart’s Art

So now, the main attraction – George’s fantastic art. George has two broad categories of work, each with their own page on his site: Geometric Sculpture and Rapid Prototyping.  The two overlap sometimes but are mostly distinct in nature.

Geometric Sculpture

Most of these works consist of arranging multiple copies of a particular shape in some sort of polyhedral symmetry – most often icosahedral symmetry. George works in a variety of media, including acrylic, wood, paper, aluminum, and steel.  Most often the components are carefully designed shapes, such as in the beautiful “Frabjous”:

George W. Hart's "Frabjous"

 

But George also show his sense of humor an whimsy by sometimes using everyday objects (especially in his earlier works), as with “The Plastic Tableware of Damocles” – made from 180 plastic knives!:

George W. Hart's "The Plastic Tableware of Damocles"

Rapid Prototyping

Another medium George has turned to in recent years is rapid prototyping – a process whereby a shape (defined in a 3D computer model) is constructed using a machine that builds up a 3D shape in thin layers using plastic dust, almost like a 3D version of an inkjet printer.  These devices are now used extensively in industry as a cheap and fast way of testing new designs for machinery parts, etc., hence the name rapid prototyping. But George and other geometric artists immediately saw the potential to use this technology to create physical models of shape that previously would have been more or less impossible to construct by hand, especially fractal models where the components rapidly get very small. A couple of examples from George’s work are this 120-cell (a sort of 4D dodecahedron):

George W. Hart's "120-cell"

 

and this beautiful Sierpinski Tetrahedron, the 3D version of the Sierpinski Triangle recently featured in the newsletter:

George W. Hart's "Sierpinski Tetrahedron"

Conclusion

As you can see, George is an amazing artist.  I really appreciate his deep love and exploration of polyhedral symmetries in art, and also his sense of humor in some of his work. I am also impressed with his willingness and ability to work in so many different media – so many artists define themselves by the medium they work in, but clearly in George’s case it’s about celebrating the shapes themselves and he uses whatever medium best suis the work at hand.

This is just the smallest taste of George’s work, and I do encourage you to go check out his site at http://www.georgehart.com/ to see more.   After you do, let us all know what you think in the comments below — what are your favorites, and why?

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About Phil Webster

Phil is the creator of GeometricArts.com. You can reach him on the Contact page.
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