An Artist Member exhibition at Center for Book Arts, Math Without Tears, is a collaboration between artists Dikko Faust and Esther K Smith with Susan Happersett and Elizabeth Duffy that showcases their collective fascination with visually expressing math through the book arts.

Happersett first began creating algorithmically generated drawings that capture the aesthetic qualities of mathematical topics – including set theory and symbolic logic – while earning graduate degrees in mathematics and art. She found that her high-contrast sequential mathematical drawings translated well to letterpress printing. Fueled by her interest in topology, Happersett also began developing paper hyperbolic forms. Her first shape was the Happersett Accordion – a type of Moebius with two faces.

Duffy’s interest in patterns and their embedded meanings has been a focus of her work throughout her career. Bookmaking allowed her to expand this exploration into new media and forms. She composed the metal typographic pieces for the prints in this exhibition. For the instant book project on view, Duffy worked with Faust and Smith on proofing found materials to approximate the envelope interiors from her other works.

Working with mathematically inspired artists like Happersett and Duffy heightened Faust’s awareness of the visual applications of math. Faust channeled his interest in archaeological and vernacular patterns and symmetries into his series of tessellation prints, artist books, and installations. This led to his ongoing series of moiré prints and artist books as well as letterpress printing from found materials via a letterpress turntable that he devised.

Smith has collaborated with fellow book artists Happersett and Duffy for decades. In fact, Happersett and Duffy first learned to make books through a course Smith taught at Cooper Union – and in the following years, both returned to the class as visiting book artists in their own right. Happersett also assisted with Smith’s publication, How to Make Books, originally published in 2007. The book also features Happersett and Duffy collaborations with Purgatory Pie Press, which Faust founded and where is Smith Artist Director.

Image: Courtesy Center for Book Arts

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