On the many layers of maths and art
LAU associate professor of mathematics and artist May Hamdan talks about the joys of her profession and artistic pursuits.
“Real life is built in layers, it’s not linear and doesn’t follow a logical sequence,” says LAU associate professor of mathematics May Hamdan. “Maths textbooks hide the discovery that was there, but in lectures you take students to the proverbial kitchen and show them the connections.”
Hamdan has taught at LAU since 1997, and thoroughly enjoys it. “Teaching is an unrehearsed performance, and each year the approach and reactions change,” she says, describing the joy she feels each time she finds a connection that makes the material accessible and enabling the student to make sense of it.
The educator has also found layers, connections and joy through art. “I am very happy with the result. At the opening I was so giddy I couldn’t stop smiling. It was like a wedding, very happy and festive,” says Hamdan, speaking of her first curated solo exhibition, held last month at Zico House. “A geology professor described the space as one where drafts are as alive as the final surface, which is true because I love layering.”
Hamdan says she chose to exhibit at Zico because the gallery is not intimidating or stuffy. “A lot of people say they are artists — little a, big A — I don’t know what I am. I’m just playing around,” she says with assurance. “Art is a journey, something I am seeking, and it’s not well defined.”
Math, on the other hand, came very naturally to Hamdan. “I didn’t seek it. It was there. I maintain a rapport with it. It’s completely natural to me, but it couldn’t be a hobby, whereas art could, so I trained in math and enjoyed making art.”
Hamdan trained in pure math and complex analysis, earning her Ph.D. from Syracuse University, before joining the faculty at New Jersey City University for three years. “I have no regrets,” she says. “I wanted to have something solid because I consider art very fluid. The way I carry it is light, so I don’t have deadlines, I don’t feel competitive. I love the way I treat it.”
Her pieces — which include pillows and bags in addition to canvases — are playful and colorful. Hamdan works to no set schedule, out of a studio at home. “Once I designated a room as my studio, I felt free and my pieces started to breathe.”
Continuing her journey of expression, Hamdan has more recently taken her hand to writing. Excerpts from a series of reflections she has titled Diary of an Easel were included among the pieces exhibited at Zico House. “I feel there is more to come. When you get to a certain plateau of creativity, the brain opens at all levels. At that level you find clarity.”
A selection of May Hamdan’s artistic works can be seen on her website at www.mayhamdan.com