Vis159 Final: Natural Fractal

Title: Natural Fractal of the American Sweet Gum

Artist: Addison Bi

Completion Date: March 17, 2015

Place of Creation: UCSD Sixth Apartments

Style: Geometric, Patterns

Technique: Natural, arrangement of materials

Material: Different parts of the American Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) leaves, flowers, and fruit; poster paper

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This project is a fractal-based pattern art made from different parts of the American Sweet Gum plant. Its circular pattern features the leaves, flowers, and the fruit as denotative of different parts of the plant’s cycle in reproduction. This piece takes natural fractals found in each of these parts of the American Sweet Gum and forms a new pattern that is also used to represent time and temporality. Fractals found in nature had the interesting characteristic as subjects of time, which is shown in the process the plant or object in nature had as it formed its fractal shapes or patterns. This project takes that time process into account as the features of the material as each part of the plant’s cycle shows a different stage in time of the original plant.

Fractals are explained by Benoit Mandelbrot as infinitely complex, self-organizing, self-similar patterns in nature or image fragments or geometric shapes replicable and sub-dividable across different scales. Though the fractal-pattern in this work is not perfect or infinite in its geometry, it aims to use fractal elements in the formation of the pattern. Each leaf is similar to one another with its five-pointed lobes, but varies in their sizes. The leaves make up the majority of the patterns and are placed in a spiral formation while the face of the leaf is changed at each different loop of the spiral (this is probably hard to see). The flowers and fruit are also fractals by themselves (the flowers are the balls of green and the fruits are the spiked balls of brown), though work together to create a symmetric pattern.

This project also takes its location specifically as it sits under the tree in which its pieces come from. The site specific location adds to the work in its regard to time as the base of the tree collects the fallen and decaying leaves, flowers, and fruits. Though most of the work is still fresh, it too will also decay and lose its contrast with the ground, returning to its tree as nutrients for it. This again emphasizes the temporality of the piece, showing the process of fractals in time to the extent of its lifetime. This concept of temporality in natural locations draws influence from artists mentioned earlier in the quarter with artists like Hans Haacke and Donald Judd.

This work is put together through placement and arrangement without any adhesive bonding it together. This means that the piece can very well fall apart or become subject to natural obstructions (such as wind or rain). This also proved itself as a difficulty when the work was done indoors and then later move outside. Essentially, the whole pattern had to be redone as it moved from paper onto the actual ground.

Natural Fractal of the American Sweet Gum aims for viewers to look at fractals as representation of time through the cycles of the plant. Though the physical piece is temporal and site specific, it can be presented in a gallery through a recreation or documentation. This project can live on through documented medium, but the original piece is where the audience should contextualize this piece. While the piece is small in scale, it is also easy for people to miss while passing by it, and eventually as it decays with the rest of the mulch on the ground, it will make itself nearly invisible.

-Addison Bi


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