Nikki Graziano makes math majestic, expanding minds of all kinds
“I freaked out and came to Seattle for a year. It was the best mistake I ever made. I drove all the way out here, didn’t know anyone and figured it’ll be fine. Then I went kinda crazy. I loved that people gave a shit about soccer. And the coffee… in Seattle it’s hard to find bad coffee. It’s not like that in New York. Dunkin Donuts coffee is awful.”
Reimann’s Zeta Function is a math problem that has never been solved, even in this period of discovery where folks claim there are no original ideas left. Since it was first postulated in 1859 it has been debated endlessly. Most agree it’s true, but proof seems lost to the galaxies.
It is this equation that Brooklyn-based artist Nikki Graziano has tattooed inside her wrist. There are still answers to find, adventures of the human spirit that have yet to be endeavored. Graziano stumbled into the great find of her creative life while walking out of a lecture hall one day.
Graziano took on a minor in math while in college, because she “hated math, but couldn’t deny being good at it.” She needed a student project for an art class, and was wrestling with a trig problem in her head as she stepped outside. The trigonometry shape mulling about in her cranium looked exactly like the tree top line outside the building.
That was the first function Graziano found.
She writes the math equations out, and presents them with a naturally occurring example present in the world around her. This innovation made the technical seem beautiful. It took a functional series of letters and symbols and twisted them into art. We were reminded that math is everywhere. It’s not just a pain-in-the-ass subject in school; it is a constant in life alongside death and taxes. Graziano’s work makes math more approachable, less intimidating and lends personality to cold calculations.
“The program I was using would spit out the designs at 72 DPI, and I work at 64,000 DPI,” Grazino mentions in describing her process. “So I would use hand strokes between two and three pixels wide to render it. Some would take weeks to finish. Now I can do them in hours.”
She has tried the 3D topography technology but feels it cheapens the art. All the photos that capture the shape and form of her functions are taken using film, with her own two hands. Graziano hits the darkroom and develops the latent images by controlling the stop bath, fixer and silver halide salts while dodging and burning massive prints.
The original intention was to only present the work as large format pieces to be viewed in a gallery setting. Fine art all the way. She sourced a Fuji Clear printing option that applies the images to transparent plastic, and planned to light the works from behind. Limited budgets meant her vision would have to stay in the abstract, but she never could have imagined the reception to these works as low-res digital images online where they could be re-blogged and pinned across the social stratum.
A popular band even tried to pass off one of her functions as it’s album artwork without her consent. But her work is so unique she had no problem convincing them she was the rightful owner; ceasing and desisting would be the appropriate course of action. Graziano’s tenacity extends to her personal life just as easily, as she is a die hard Liverpool soccer fan that shows support with the best of them. Northwest soccer fanaticism played a major role in her moving to Seattle for a year.
“I freaked out and came here for a year,” she recalls. “It was the best mistake I ever made. I drove all the way out here, didn’t know anyone and figured it’ll be fine. Then I went kinda crazy. I loved that people gave a shit about soccer. And the coffee… in Seattle it’s hard to find bad coffee. It’s not like that in New York. Dunkin Donuts coffee is awful.”
Cannabis makes very rare appearances in her day-to-day. Once a month at the most, but when the mood strikes she is willing to dabble. The abstinence is because as she puts it: “I don’t want to use it as an excuse, smoke too much and not do shit.”
As a New Yorker she has had a front row seat for the stop-and-frisk harassment of minorities suspected of cannabis consumption. Like most residents, the policy of the NYPD pisses her off.
“There is so much racial tension because of it. Cops see white kids on a stoop smoking and shoo them away. They tell them to go back inside. New York voted the soda ban through but decriminalization to stop this treatment was passed up. What the fuck?”