As humans, we have a fascinating capacity to visualize mathematics. Our analytical concepts can be visualized, written down in notation, and then shared as a logical and visual language for others. These creative ideas are analytical expressions, and the visual process of rendering them is analytical expressionism. This is the world I explore while painting.
Working in mathematics and art, I discover the milieu in which those two subjects meet, showing viewers, on canvas, what the process of thinking about math looks like to me. By allowing the paintings to operate like a chalkboard in my studio, gradually filling up with abstract concepts, I translate the intricate world of mathematical relationships into something everyone can see. Translating abstract scientific ideas into artistic work has existed since Leonardo da Vinci translated abstract concepts into beautiful drawings that maintained their scientific accuracy. I see a similar world to explore in mathematics and invite the viewer to consider this visual component of abstract ideas in my paintings.
These paintings were initially inspired by two geometric forms: the Cycloid (Galileo, 1599) and Spherical Lunes (Leonardo da Vinci, 1510). A Cycloid is a geometric curve formed by a point on the circumference of a circle that rolls along a straight line. Spherical Lunes are geometric shapes formed by intersecting circles and, when opened, form elegant petal-like Hypocycloids.
However, the evolution of my interests never seems to be linear, and once I under- stand how a certain geometry “works” in the notation and visual manifestation, then I see that geometry everywhere around me; everything is a Lune, everything can be constructed from Cycloids. And these provoke new analyses and new geometries. The following paragraphs describe where curiosity took me and the subsequent analytical exploration evidenced in these paintings.
This visual analogy of “wrapping” Lunes around a circle continued with the wrap- ping of the geometric forms of Limaçons (Dürer, 1525) and Cardioids (de Castillon, 1741). At about that time, I came across Peter Hujar’s 1963 photograph of “Girl with Ruffles” in the Palermo Catacombs. The Lunes in her eyes and the multi-faceted Hypocycloids in the roses took away my breath.
After seeing Hujar’s photograph, I reacquainted myself with some of his art and discovered the self-portrait of David Wojnarowicz. His lips are threaded with perfect Toroidal precision, and I drew this geometry over and over until eventually the geometric form of a Toroid evolved. Rotating a circle around a line tangent to it creates a Toroid, which is similar to a donut or ring-like shape where the center exactly touches all the rotated circles. I also found a wonderful sculpture titled “Equilateral Torus II” by John Duff and it too became my muse along with Hujar and Wojnarowicz’s photographs.
Another significant influence in these paintings comes from seeing the Rauschenberg retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The most compelling of his Combines was “Canyon,” in particular, I was fascinated by the Toroidal bifurcation of the pillow representing Ganymede as he was spirited away by Zeus. Inspired by Rembrandt’s “The Abduction of Ganymede,” this work by Rauschenberg carries my muse of a Toroid Glissette.
“Schultheis deftly reveals the value of advanced mathematics as a tool to describe and define responses to the human condition. He recontextualizes these idealized forms into symbols and reminders of human perception. Melding the beauty of an abstract painting with the elegant sophistication of pure mathematics, Schultheis describes the imperfections of the human condition. He seeks to understand the connections between lovers and caregivers. He defines the boundaries of compassion and tolerance, and he gives shape to psychological tenderness.” Read Full Essay →
Rock Hushka, Lead Curator
Tacoma Art Museum