Natalie Priebe Frank

Professor of Mathematics
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, New York, USA

I am a mathematician who studies self-similar tilings and other models of aperiodic order. I have been making art based on my research for two decades. Scientific interest in the tessellations I study is due to the complexity of their structure, and this complexity is also the source of their artistic interest. Most of the art I produce features some form of self-similarity related to that found in fractals, except on an infinitely large rather than an infinitesimal scale.

Spiral Circuit
Spiral Circuit
61 x 40 x 40 cm
Glass beads; acrylic; nylon cord

Spiral Circuit is a mobile that is based on a mathematical object called a self-similar tiling. The core tiling motif is made from two colors of square tiles; the four-color patterns of the beaded orbs are formed when two copies of the tiling are superimposed at varying distances. A motif seen in one orb is repeated, perhaps with color changes, in the other orbs. Spiral Circuit is one tiling theme in different colorways, spinning and interacting harmoniously in a never-ending motion.

The tilings are executed in Japanese glass beads hand-woven on a loom. Each orb consists of three panels of woven beads sewn together to make a triangular bipyramid. The orbs required over 13,000 beads to make and hang from custom laser-cut acrylic.