A Keen Perspective: An Edinboro Honors Student Marries Art and Math

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 at 5:30 AM
A Keen Perspective: An Edinboro Honors Student Marries Art and Math by Mary Birdsong

Today, people often think of art and math as having the same sort of relationship as oil and water. Not Megan Kuntz, an Edinboro University junior, double majoring in art education and painting and illustration. Earlier this month, she walked away with a national award in the Visual Art category at the National Collegiate Honors Conference in Denver for her project “Using Mathematical Perspective.”

To complete this endeavor, she applied the method of one-point linear perspective to explore how a subject in a two-dimensional work of art changes based the viewing distance and angle. Kuntz started with a three-dimensional still life, took measurements, created scatter plots for two different viewing distances in Microsoft Excel, and then translated those two graphs into two-dimensional paintings designed to be viewed from different distances.

This undertaking came about after Kuntz read the book Viewpoints: Mathematical Perspective and Fractal Geometry in Art, which breaks down the method of linear perspective into mathematical and geometric terms and offers exercises for implementing it. Ever since, she wanted to apply it to her work.

She was advised in the project by her art professor, Terry McKelvey, and math professor, Dr. John Hoggard.

“Professor McKelvey helped me with understanding how size and the temperature of color affect our perception of distance and size. It helped me enhance the mathematical side,” Kuntz explains. “Dr. Hoggard helped me work through some of the more complex math and showed me how even small measurement errors can result in distortions.”

Kuntz says it was “really nice” to win the award, but her favorite part was doing the project and talking about it with the contest judges. “They were enthusiastic and really captivated in what I had done – it was great to share my project with people who are interested in the same things I am,” adding with a laugh, “Not all of my friends appreciated me talking about my project.”

McKelvey, who has taught Kuntz in several of his classes, is a big fan.

“It does not surprise me one bit that she won this award. She is very motivated, absorbs concepts easily and produces quality work at the highest level,” he says. “I don’t think I have ever had a student as brilliant in so many capacities.”

Kuntz’s project has begat offspring, as well. The collaboration between McKelvey and Hoggard has led to the two departments working together to develop a specific math class for artists.

“We always say that disciplines are interrelated, but, in truth, we rarely work together,” says McKelvey.  “Now we will, and we expect to have a class up and running in a couple of years.”

The award is a feather in Edinboro’s cap, says McKelvey. “We are very proud of Megan.”

Mary Birdsong can be contacted at mBirdson@ErieReader.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @Mary_Birdsong.

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