Sophomore Lila Greco Is the Princess of Polyhedra
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 02:02
Math is hard, but in sophomore Lila Greco’s hands, it’s easy on the eyes.
“I was drawing Celtic knots all around the math department,” Greco said. “One of the professors asked if I could give a presentation on Celtic knots and teach people how to draw them, so I thought it would be really interesting to present some of the math behind it as well.”
Greco discovered knot theory, which supports her belief that math and art are closely related.
“It turns out there is a lot of math in art. … I also just think that math is beautiful, so it lends itself well to creating art out of it,” Greco said.
Math is part of the way Greco approaches everything, not something she necessarily consciously chooses to apply to specific situations.
“I kind of always think about things in mathematical terms,” Greco said.
In terms of being an artist, however, Greco sees her work more as a way to relax than as a decision to create art.
“I don’t really think of myself as an artist, but I like to create things, and I think more than anything it’s just soothing to do art and make something with your hands, like the polyhedra. It’s something that I do because I think it’s relaxing and fun,” Greco said.
The Celtic knots adorning the math professors’ doors, for example, stemmed from her need to relieve exam stress.
“Towards the end of last semester, I kind of rediscovered my love of drawing Celtic knots, so during finals week I decided I needed a study break, so I started drawing all the names and Celtic knots,” Greco said.
For Greco, her creations are both theoretically and visually interesting. Take her beautifully decorated polyhedra, for example.
“All of the polyhedra [are] platonic solids, so … their faces are [regular shapes, such as] an equilateral triangle or a square or a pentagon. And I just think they just have this aesthetically pleasing look to them because they’re so symmetrical, and they’re related to each other, and so I thought it would be cool to [also] decorate them geometrically,” Greco said.
Understanding a little bit of the math behind Greco’s polyhedra, beautiful in and of themselves, makes them even more impressive.
For Greco, the challenge involved in making these math-based projects is part of their appeal, which attracted Greco to drawing fractals in middle school.
“You start with a straight line, and then you put like a bend in it so it’s a 90-degree angle. And you take each of those lines and you put a 90-degree bend in those,” Greco said. “It was kind of like a challenge to see how far I could go drawing this curve.”
Greco suggests that those interested in learning to make math-based art start with Celtic knots.
“There are lots of tutorials online for how to draw Celtic knots,” Greco said, so beginners can follow step-by-step visual instructions. According to Greco, persistence is key in learning to draw Celtic knots.
“I was showing everybody how to draw these Celtic knots [at my Jan. 28 talk for the math department]. It was really slow at first, but I had a lot of people come up to me afterwards or the next day and say, ‘I kept drawing them and it finally clicked and I got the pattern down,’” Greco said.
After practicing and gaining some understanding of the math behind the Celtic knots, Greco can now create original designs.
“You start with a basic grid and then you … define these boundaries and walls where you don’t want lines to cross, and depending on where you put those, you end up with different designs,” Greco said.
This freedom attracts Greco to drawing Celtic knots.
“I think Celtic knots are probably my favorite because there [are] almost infinite possibilities,” she said. “You can make really small changes in the way that you’re drawing [the knot], and it leads to a huge difference in the overall look.”
While Greco’s art is primarily a relaxing way for her to create something aesthetically pleasing, she also likes sharing with others the overarching connections she sees between math and art.
“I think it’s great that people really seem to enjoy seeing these Celtics knots [on the math professors’ doors],” Greco said. “It’s nice for people to be able to appreciate the beauty in mathematics and how it’s underlying a lot of art.”