A Logical Step

Artist Jennifer E. Padilla explains her painting, XOR Logic (acrylic on canvas), above, this way: "Pick a tile and look at the tile below and the tile to the left. Are they both light blue or both dark blue? If so, then the tile you are looking at should be light blue. If instead there is one light blue and one dark blue tile in the positions below and to the left, then the tile you are looking at should be dark blue.

"From this rule, a fractal pattern begins to emerge. It is a manifestation of the ‘Exclusive OR’ (XOR) logic gate, an element of the computer circuits operating in your laptop or your phone. The pattern is known as the Sierpinski triangle. This work explores the early moments of that progression where one can observe the logical XOR rule while just beginning to perceive the triangular Sierpinski fractal pattern."

With a master’s degree in mathematics and a PhD in biochemistry, Jennifer E. Padilla seemed set on the scientific path. She continued that journey as a postdoc at Caltech, studying DNA nanotechnology in the lab of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Bioengineering Professor Niles Pierce, and in a second postdoc at New York University. Later, after two years as a research professor at Boise State University, Padilla realized that her passion was for art, not science. Or, rather, the intersection of art and science. 

Now based in Altadena, Padilla has been working primarily as an artist for the last three years, exploring the connection between Islamic geometric art and mathematical topics such as Euclidean geometry, algorithmic assembly, and quasiperiodic order. “Much of my research focused on the self-assembly of molecules, how the assembly process could be guided by symmetry, and how it could relate to computation,” says Padilla. “The precision and intricacy of the patterns found in Islamic geometric art converse easily with the logic of mathematics.” 

Fall 2019, SoCaltechJon Nalick