June 8 2016 12:15 AM

Jack Hetherington finds beauty in data

Jack Hetherington's "tan(z)" is an artistic representation of a mathematic function.
Courtesy Image

City Pulse and the Arts Council of Greater Lansing have teamed up for the Summer of Art, which puts original art by area artists on the cover of City Pulse each week through Aug. 31. This week’s cover features “(Z3+1)/(Z3-1)” by Jack Hetherington.

Jack Hetherington discovered his knack for art late in life. The 81-year-old engineer and artist taught physics and mathematics at MSU for 35 years. While charts and graphs were always part of his career, he only recently started to see them for more than just information. Many of the graphs he works with use color to represent three or four dimensions on a two-dimensional graph, which can lead to unexpectedly beautiful images.


“I was looking at graphical representations of a function for my research,” Hetherington said. “My artist daughter-in-law saw them and thought they were interesting and asked me to teach a lesson to my grandson's fifth grade class at the school where she was teaching.”

Hetherington worked with the fifth graders explaining how the colors presented on the computer screen represent different analytic functions.

“I began each day for two weeks finding a new function that I thought was interesting in my representation,” he said. “Somehow, during the process, I became an artist.”

Hetherington continued to experiment with visual representation of data as art, and started printing and framing the more interesting examples on highquality metallic paper. His art will be on display in the Riverwalk Theatre lobby December and January. He is working out a way to produce moving versions of his art as installation pieces.

Hetherington, who splits his time between Haslett and La Vernaz, France, was amazed to discover many works at Foundation Louis Vuitton that also have mathematic underpinnings.

“Many artists start with a vision or set of transformations that they use as a guiding principle,” Hetherington said.

But Hetherington doesn’t take himself too seriously as an artist. He jokingly tells anyone who want to be an artist to start with E.T. Whittaker and G.N. Watson’s “A Course of Modern Analysis” or “anything else which has nothing to do with art, and start from there.”

To submit your work for the Summer of Art, please go to lansingarts.org. Please read the rules carefully. Pay particular attention to these:

1. If selected, the original art must be given to the Arts Council of Greater Lansing to be auctioned. The artist receives 30 percent of the sale price.

2. Published art will be used horizontally. City Pulse reserves the right to crop or rotate art.

3. Photographs of art that is not intended to be donated (e.g. large sculptures) will not be accepted. Artistic photographs, including photographs of art, will be considered. Please be clear if you are offering the art piece or the photograph for auction.

Questions? Email publisher@lansingcitypulse.com or call (517) 999-5061.

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