Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Dierdre Kelly, Class of 2011

talks about Mathematics & Art


Dierdre Kelly ’11, plans to major in Biochemistry and minor in Math, with the intention of becoming a medical scientist one day


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My First-Year Seminar, Mathematics & Art, combined two subjects that I loved separately but had never studied together before. When it came time to write my final research paper, I found the artwork Torony-Nagy by Vincent Vasarely. I soon decided that I wanted to investigate all the mathematics and illusions in the painting.

The main mathematical concept I studied in Math & Art was linear perspective, the classical way of creating the illusion of three-dimensionality.

In Torony-Nagy, the artist deliberately broke the rules of traditional linear perspective. I studied the reasons for this choice, and explained the use of lighting techniques and interesting geometry in the work with both text and figures. In the process, I learned about mathematical aspects in artwork that make powerful illusions.

When I submitted the paper to my professor, Dr. Annalisa Crannell, she encouraged me to attempt publishing the work. She recommended the academic journal called Mathematics and Art. I was ecstatic at the opportunity, and she supported me as I revised my paper for publication.

Working on the paper for both the course and publication improved my technical writing skills, as I had to explain techniques and concepts for anyone who might read my work without a background in the subject.

I also gained important experience for my overall career goal, to become a research scientist. While this paper is a different form of research and publication than I eventually intend to do, it prepared me for future work.