Events Calendar

Fractals and the Drip Paintings of Jackson Pollock

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 4:35pm to 6:00pm

Wright Lecture Hall, W201 110 North Professor Street, Oberlin, OH 44074

A Physics & Astronomy Special Colloquium featuring Visiting Assistant Professor Katherine Jones-Smith of Reed College.

Abstract:  In the late 1990s a group of physicists analyzed several of the celebrated drip paintings by the late Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock.  Assuming Pollock underwent a particular type of chaotic motion known to leave a fractal trail, they found that every layer of every painting they analyzed possessed the same fractal characteristics. 

From this they conjectured that Pollock was able to create a unique fractal `signature' in his work, and that fractal analysis could therefore be used as an authentication tool in paintings of disputed origin.  It turns out that this hypothesis of  'Fractal Expressionism'  is flawed in several important ways. 

Prof. Jones-Smith will present an account of the techniques used in fractal analysis and the pitfalls which ensue from applying them to Pollock's drip paintings.  She will also present several new findings from the realm of fractal mathematics which were motivated by this work.

A reception for Prof. Jones-Smith begins at 4:10 p.m. in the Anderson Lounge area , Wright Lab, second floor.

Event Type



Academic, Physics and Astronomy

Contact Person

Diane Doman

Contact Phone Number


Contact E-mail Address

Recent Activity

Chetan Poudel

Chetan Poudel left a positive review 3/20/2013

Really cool physics talk that used math to do some fractal analysis on Jackson Pollock's paintings, initially thought to have Pollock's unique fractal signature. Not only did the talk debunk that hypothesis, it also showed that some of Pollock's originals didn't pass the fractal test, while other paintings created by CWRU students in the style of Pollock passed the test making all the nature, science and scientific american articles by authors nonsensical. "People want interdisciplinary work to be successful, it's sexy" is what Kate said, when asked about how this fractal signature idea caught the attention of the scientific community and why such a hypothesis was made.

Marcelo Vinces

Marcelo Vinces left a positive review 3/20/2013

Fascinating intersection of the arts and natural sciences.

People Interested (5)

Claire Ciraolo Marcelo Vinces Hillary Mullan Chetan Poudel Rosalie Eck

Getting Here