The Geometric Sculptures of Helaman Ferguson
The Department of Mathematics is pleased to have and share this sculpture by artist and mathematician Helaman Ferguson.
The Figure Eight Knot Complement III, 1992, is direct-carved in white Carrara marble, with a honeycomb texture and esker (raised ridge). It measures
This piece was acquired by the department directly from the sculptor in 1994 using funds collected in memory of Radu Tudorica, a talented math major who died before graduating. It is on display in the department's conference room.
Ferguson has been both a research mathematician and a sculptor. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Washington in 1971 and served for 17 years on the mathematics faculty of Brigham Young University before becoming a full-time artist. He lives and works in Maryland.
Figure Eight Complement III is featured on pages 46-47 of the book HELAMAN FERGUSON: Mathematics in Stone and Bronze [Meridian Creative Group, Erie, Pennsylvania, 1994] by Claire Ferguson. We quote
Speaking purely mathematically, it has been shown that the complement of the figure eight knot in the 3-sphere admits a Riemannian metric of constant curvature -1 and hence is expressible as a quotient of non-Euclidean hyperbolic 3-space
Much of this latter information is carved into the marble base of the sculpture. The sculpture itself does not actually represent the entire knot complement directly. The abstract knot bounds a non-orientable surface with two holes (i.e., a punctured Klein bottle). The space of this sculpture represents a thickening of this surface into a 3-dimensional, self-linking, object with two holes on which the original knot can be traced.
It is interesting to compare this with the description of Figure Eight Complement II at Mount Holyoke. In that case the figure eight knot is described as separating the two-hole torus into two separate portions. It is based on a thickening of a punctured torus that the figure eight knot also bounds.
- Allan Edmonds