Robert Bosch

Artist/Professor of Mathematics
Oberlin College
Oberlin, Ohio

All artists are optimizers. All artists try to perform a task - creating a piece of artwork - at the highest level possible. The main difference between me and other artists is that I use optimization explicitly. I usually don't use a pencil, paintbrush, or any other traditional tool. I do use a computer, but not in the same way that other digital artists do. Instead, I use mathematical optimization. Here's how I usually work: After I get an idea for a piece, I translate the idea into a mathematical optimization problem. I then solve the problem, render the solution, and see if I'm pleased with the result. If I am, I stop. If not, I revise the mathematical optimization problem, solve it, render its solution, and examine it. Often I need to go through many iterations to end up with a piece that pleases me. I do what I do out of a love of mathematical optimization - the theory, the algorithms, the numerous applications.

The Sphere and the Labyrinth
The Sphere and the Labyrinth
3" in diameter
Wood (maple) and steel

Inspired by my favorite childhood toy, a ball labyrinth game made by Brio, I hand carved a symmetric simple closed curve into the surface of a 3'' diameter ball of maple. The curve is a channel that is deep enough and wide enough to hold a 0.5" diameter ball of steel. It is possible to pick up the ball of wood and maneuver it so that the ball of steel will roll through the entire channel and end up back where it started.