Graffiti as Math Street Art
The idea of street art and graffiti as something other than hooligans defacing public spaces intrigued me. And that art and even street art has math concepts built-in is an argument for my 6th grader who wants to go to art school to pay attention to math. I suppose concepts like symmetry make sense for art, but how about measurement, proportion, and scale?
What do you think of street art? Please share!
p.s. Josephine Noah’s article is here.
To view any of these young adult street art books more closely at Amazon, please click on image.
Senior Sheila B. presents her research on Middle Eastern graffiti and street art during Calhoun’s Upper School Demo Day, when students share what they’ve learned with fellow students, faculty and parents. Held at the end of each term (or mod), Demo Day is just one more avenue to make students reflect on and reinforce their learning. (The project was for a course on the History and Politics of the Modern Middle East.)
Did you know that makers of wild style graffiti are doing math as they create their masterpieces? Many years ago, I wrote my Master’s thesis on this topic. (You can find my preliminary paper on the web.) Makers of wild style graffiti are more diverse than you might think, coming from a wide range of age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, and ethnicities.
I’ve met talented and passionate graffiti artists who are 13-year-old Latino middle school students and 30-year-old white middle-class engineers. I knew one who was obsessed with sacred geometry. Some love school math and excel at it, some absolutely don’t. But they’re all doing street math, much of it self-invented or taught by peers, as they plan and paint their pieces.
Can you read the piece at the top of this post? A young graffiti artist would be able to do so immediately, using problem-solving skills developed to look for patterns and decode. And there are obviously concepts of symmetry and proportion at work in the design of these images. And imagine the challenges involved in accurately translating a sketch from an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper onto a wall 20+ feet long.
These artists use concepts of scale and invented measuring techniques to do so. Want to further test your wild style deciphering skills? Try these, by Geser and Knect.
As a teacher, I inspired some young students’ confidence and engagement in math by pointing out that they were already doing some math that was beyond my capabilities. For students who might not have already found their artistic calling that can be related to math, Sketchpad can be an inspiring tool: check out this animation by a high school student! You can be sure plenty of math was directly used here.