In honor of Pi Day, we spoke to John Sims, a math artist, writer and activist creating dynamic projects informed by the language of mathematics, art, text, film and performance. In his latest exhibition, American Pi: Visions from a Math Artist, Sims will present pieces created over a span of 20 years, working to visualize the decimal expansion of Pi by arranging the Pi digits in a certain order and then color coding them.


Art Zealous: You make work in many different media (art, math, writing, etc). Do you have a favorite and why?

John Sims: I see art, mathematics and writing as a 3-dimensional coordinate system that allows for both complex expression and a way to connect to a diverse audience. With that in mind, I enjoy them all.


AZ: I’m terrible at math, what’s your secret?

JS: Go slow and steady and ask simple questions. Also, try to understand the concept from more than one point of view. Visualize as much as you can.

AZ: Do you have a favorite number? Why?

JS: I like prime numbers –  especially twin primes like 17 and 19 or 71 and 73.

AZ: In your opinion, describe the relationship between art and math.
JS: As parameters of human consciousness, I see mathematics and art as languages and creative processes that help us see beyond the retinal into the conceptual and metaphysical space where beauty and truth awaits.


AZ: You grew up in Detroit, talk to us about the art scene there and how it’s changed.

JS: In the last few years, the art scene has bloomed considerably from when I was a high school student. The art scene seems to have attracted many artists from NYC and elsewhere. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the long run. I am hopeful and even excited about the emerging Detroit art scene.


AZ: What are your current inspirations/reference points?

JS: I am very interested in performance and how to translate complicated and conceptually rich narratives to the stage.


AZ: What can viewers expect from American Pi: Visions from a Math Artist?

JS: The opportunity to see into the soul of Pi.

AZ: Many artists seem to have a kind of secondary artistic outlet (e.g., a musician will enjoy cooking). Do you dabble in any other creative mediums?

JS: I try not to dabble, babble or stray from the gravity of my primary work.


AZ: What do you have coming up next? Any future projects?

JS: I am working on a project about my neighborhood block in Detroit. The idea is to pay homage to the architectural and memory-based anchors of the neighborhood experience.


AZ: How can we stay in touch? 

JS: IG @johnsimsprojects, twitter @John Simsproject


American Pi: Visions from a Math Artist opens tonight at Grace Howl Contemporary Art and Gallery.