Mark McCombs

Teaching Associate Professor
Mathematics Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." - Rumi
I began making art two years ago while navigating the pain and sorrow following my younger brother's unexpected death. I create modular origami sculpture, digital fractal images, and video as a celebration of and dialog with his loving spirit and grace. My videos feature fractal images inspired and accompanied by my brother's original music. My art is an exploration of how the fractals' harmony between fluid motion and infinite self-similarity eloquently articulates that moments of sublime complexity and beauty often emerge from the iteration of simple patterns.
The Answer Inside
23 x 23 x 15 cm
Marbled Lokta paper
2016
"Look for the answer inside your question." – Rumi
I teach a Freshman Seminar designed to engage students in an exploration of how mathematical ideas resonate with fields typically perceived as non-mathematical. My students especially enjoy class discussions and activities devoted to representing higher-dimensional objects in lower dimensions. This sculpture depicts a knot in three-dimensions as a non-self-intersecting object, but its shadow, as a projection onto any two-dimensional space, intersects itself. I created this piece using the "Golden Venture" folding style of modular origami. The sculpture consists of approximately 600 triangular modules folded from marbled Lokta paper.
Imagine Sisyphus Happy
60 x 90 cm
Ultra Fractal 2 Software
2016
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." - Albert Camus
I teach a Freshman Seminar designed to engage students in an exploration of how mathematical ideas resonate with fields typically perceived as non-mathematical. My students especially enjoy class discussions and activities devoted to generating fractal images as a way to "experience the infinite." I created this piece in Ultra Fractal 2 using Ron Barnett's Slope Scaled Ikenaga Newton formula and Damien Jones' Lighting outside coloring algorithm. As I began to zoom into the fractal, this infinitely self-similar spiral arm emerged from the shadows as a poignant evocation of our spiritual kinship with Sisyphus.