Recursive Equations on a Complex Plane
Pulitzer Prize winning author, Edward O. Wilson, writes in his book, The Origins of Creativity, that the birth of the Humanities occurred at least 100,000 years ago when our hominid ancestors developed language and started storytelling around the campfire.
Wilson further states that in modern higher-learning institutions, the Humanities classes (creative arts, literature, history, linguistics, social and religious studies, etc.) are declining as the STEM disciplines take over collective consciousness. He argues – and I paraphrase greatly – that without Humanities to help us steer the sciences, we will not apply our technologies properly enough for the greater good of humanity or the planet.
Former Phoenix math teacher and educational consultant Mark Greenberg understands this on a first-hand basis. An artist-at-heart since childhood in California, Greenberg has been designing his fractals for decades. He lives in Scottsdale with family around, staying even busier with his artistic pursuits since retirement. Encompassed in the Butterfly Effect/Chaos Theory, a fractal is a never-ending, self-similar pattern seen in many other natural phenomena. Greenberg creates his vividly abstract, infinitely trippy fractals with a special computer program just to flex some beauty into the world and give himself balance in life, solving at least one applicable art vs. technology dilemma.
“I love the interface between art and computers, a wide-open space where ideas turn into visual expression. The creative space provided by computers is not well explored,” says Greenberg. “It awaits fresh artists with unique ways of viewing the world, if they can tame the medium. There are a lot of artists, there are a lot of programmers. Few people code to create. What is in my mind and what is in my creative soul requires a computer for expression, but a computer could not produce the same art without me.”
There are many types of fractals and Greenberg bases most of his on the Mandelbrot Set. “Computers store color as combinations of red, green blue values, or alternately, hue, saturation and brightness values,” he explains a small fact about the process. “In the Mojo Lamps, for example, I can tie the colors to the harmonics of a sound or the sound’s energy level. Such techniques often yield fresh and unexpected results.”
Greenberg believes art galleries and museums are sacred spaces but knows that a show of his art would require thinking outside the logistical box. “I do not show in galleries or sell my art. I am free from the expectations of others. Some years ago, I selected a piece for temporary display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They had everything correct on the name plaque except the piece was hung upside down,” Mark laughs.
He admires those who can support themselves with their creations but warns against the danger of measuring one’s artistic expressions against its profitability.
“I made money teaching and tutoring. Art was a hobby. But whatever you do for work, show up on time with enthusiasm,” advises Greenberg. “Put your personal flavor into what you produce. I am successful in that I am able to create the way I want to and get praise from others. One key to this type of success is acknowledging that art and math are not polar opposites. They actually overlap quite a bit, and I use math to shape my artistic visions.”
Using inspiration from artists such as Marcel Duchamp’s (1887-1968) cubism-in-motion, the treatment of light and shadows by Greg and Tim (d. 2006) Hildebrandt “as variants of hue instead of variants of darkness,” Greenberg also cites compositional mastership of painter Frank Frazetta (1928-2010) and Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher’s (1898-1972) mathematically inspired woodcuts and lithographs as influences.
Besides going cerebral while constructing fractal loops, Greenberg also devises and hosts a weekly online trivia/puzzle game called Chicken Scratch every Saturday morning with players joining in from around the world. This is not your average dish of pop culture trivia served up cold. Chicken Scratch questions are multi-discipline brain twisters, challenging even for those who pick up on embedded clues in weekly email reminders. The prize is a copy of art from Greenberg’s collection, transferred digitally.
There are lots of examples of fractal art online. To contact Mark about his or test your trivia skills by joining the next Chicken Scratch via Zoom, please find him at firstname.lastname@example.org.