News Article

Art and Math Make a Splash

Student Replicates Famous Painting

OCS Junior Catherine Rao is one of those unique individuals who is equally comfortable in the right-brain world of art and the left-brain world of math. Her love of art has resulted in her taking an art class every year at Oaks Christian and serving as the high school art prefect. And while not a declared math major, she has already committed to attend Princeton University to study economics.

“Honestly, the combination of art and math and the essence and the feeling of it coming together in my brain just clicks for me,” she said.

In a blending of both her interests and as a unique gift to the math department, she is painting a mural of "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa" by Japanese artist Hokusai in the math core room.

One of the most easily recognized art pieces in the world, Hokusai’s 1832 painting of a giant wave crashing down on boats near Mount Fuji uses the mathematical concepts of fractals to replicate sea waves long before fractals were invented by Benoit Mandelbrot. The Great Wave is considered one of the most outstanding representation of mathematical fractals and geometry in art.

Rao was inspired to create the mural from a conversation with math teacher Wendy Klaiber

“I told her I was thinking of doing a project that combined art and math and she said, ‘I have a wall you can paint.’”

She approached her 3D art teacher Don Trimble who encouraged her to paint the mural as part of her class work. She works on it during class, but also comes in after hours and plans to work on it over spring break. She estimates it will take three months to complete and she has already put in two months.

“I love math and art, so this was perfect. Part of the great wave is the golden ratio which initiates a subconscious feeling of aesthetic pleasure in your brain. So, I wanted to tap into that. Last year I measured the wall to see how tall and how wide it was and then adjusted the ratios to get the right proportions.  But that wasn’t very efficient, so I just kind of went free hand using symbols instead,” she shared.

The detailed replica is shaping up beautifully and Rao hopes to have it done in time for the annual high school visual arts show in late spring.

"Catherine is a rare delight, one who appreciates both mathematical elements of balance and proportion in art, as well as purity and beauty in mathematics," said OCS Math Chair Michelle Bergman.

Bergman added that she has painted calculator covers for her peers and has gifted her math teachers with original paintings that seem to capture each teacher's unique spirit.

"Her current project in the math core room is blessing the entire math team by bringing color and harmony into the space and lifting the mood of anyone who enters the core room. We are grateful that Catherine is sharing her talent and fortunate to have her leave a permanent mark on our hearts and on our wall," Bergman said.