The Traveling CANVAS - CalculArt at Dennos
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Works by John M Sullivan

Borromean Rings | Minimal Flower | Unknot
works in situ

John M. Sullivan was born in 1963 in Princeton, NJ, USA. After earlier degrees from Harvard and Cambridge Universities, he received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Princeton in 1990. He was then a postdoctoral fellow at the Geometry Center, and taught at the University of Minnesota. In 1997 Sullivan took a new faculty position at the University of Illinois, Urbana. In 2003, he moved to Berlin, where he is Professor of Mathematical Visualization at TU Berlin. Sullivan's mathematical art -- prints and sculptures generated by computer -- has been exhibited in Manhattan, Bologna, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Paris.

"My art is an outgrowth of my work as a mathematician. My research studies curves and surfaces whose shape is determined by optimization principles or minimization of energy. A classical example is a soap bubble which is round because it minimizes its area while enclosing a fixed volume. Like most research mathematicians, I find beauty in the elegant structure of mathematical proofs, and I feel that this elegance is discovered, not invented, by humans. I am fortunate that my own work also leads to visually appealing shapes, which can present a kind of beauty more accessible to the public.

John Sullivan can be reached at jms@isama.org.

'Borromean Rings' by John M Sullivan et al

Borromean Rings


John M Sullivan, Stuart Levy, Ken Brakke, Jeff Carpenter, 1998
immersive interactive application

Three rings, so linked that if one is broken, the other two come apart as well, can be placed in a spatially symmetric way. But, this is not the only position of least energy. The other, nearly planar, minimal position will be familiar to fanciers of Ballantine's Ale.

Animation: Stuart Levy
Dynamics: John M Sullivan
Evolver Software: Ken Brakke
Post-Production: Jeff Carpenter

From "Knot Energies," ICM Berlin, 1998

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'Minimal Flower 3' by John M Sullivan

Minimal Flower 3


John M Sullivan, original 2001, reprint 2006
ZPrinter Z406 printed plaster sculpture

Minimal Flower 3 is an homage to Brent Collins, whose sculptures have been very inspirational to me. For this sculpture, I designed the boundary curve and an initial surface by hand, and then used software to model a minimal surface. This, mathematically, is the optimal shape a soap-film spanning across the boundary would achieve. The geometric equilibrium of a minimal surface, where the curvatures of the surface always balance in a saddle configuration, adds to its beauty."

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'Unknot' by John M Sullivan et al

Unknot


John M Sullivan, Stuart Levy, Ken Brakke, Jeff Carpenter, 1998
immersive interactive application

Not every tangled mess of a string tied into a loop is knotted. Putting a virtual repulsive charge on the string, a computer can untangle this unknot into the obviously unknotted circle without breaking the loop. It does this by reducing the energy induced by this charge.

Animation: Stuart Levy
Dynamics: John M Sullivan
Evolver Software: Ken Brakke
Post-Production: Jeff Carpenter

From "Knot Energies," ICM Berlin, 1998

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The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology

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