Sarah Stengle

Visual Artist
Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA

Apollonius of Perga did highly sophisticated mathematics with simple drawing tools while exploring ratio, proportion, and intersection—all of which I associate with visual art. I decided to use the imagery found in his work on Conics in a series of drawings called Postcards from Perga in which I am imposing Apollonius of Perga’s mathematical work onto postcards. My intention is to integrate the postcard image with the lines of the proof in such a way as to evoke emotions rarely associated with mathematical proofs, or for that matter, postcards. Mathematical imagery from the classical era is nearly timeless, and acts as a gentle foil, quietly amplifying the postcard’s ephemeral nature.

Postcard from Perga, Book 1, Proposition 54: Asbury Park Boardwalk
20 x 30 cm
Ink and pencil on vintage postcard

This is part of an ongoing project in which I am imposing Apollonius of Perga’s mathematical work with conics onto postcards. This image from Asbury Park is postmarked 1915, and the proof chosen for superimposition is an extremely symmetrical and calm image inscribed within a circle. Without defining the connotations, the image can be seen to resemble celestial charts of bygone eras, the crosshairs of a gun site, a kite within a kite, or a sort of ancient religious symbol. There is stillness to this image. The symmetry of the superimposed proof amplifies that sense of stillness and intensifies the strangely static nature of the crowds at the beach in this postcard image from exactly one hundred years ago.