BRONNA A. BUTLER

Conway has, on many occasions, offered a minor financial incentive/reward to any of his math colleagues who could find a solution to a difficult mathematical problem. This inspired me to create a 5 X 6 X 6 in. stained glass pyramid with a challenge/puzzle painted on three of its sides, and the words "$50 if you can figure out the pattern" on one side.  (The puzzle pattern has been circulating among groups of mathematicians for years.  It is in Conway's biography, "Genius at Play", by Siobhan Roberts).  A $50 bill is inside the pyramid to complete the playful reference.

Any piece about the prolific Martin Gardener (1914-2010) carries a genuine responsibility to honor this remarkable person.   He is beloved by mathematicians, magicians, puzzlers and rational skeptics, as well as “lay” and professional math and science enthusiasts throughout the world.  Gardner published over 70 books covering subjects from literature, such as The Annotated Alice (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass), to Magic, Skepticism, Religion and fictional novels.  For twenty-five years, Martin wrote the “Mathematical Games” column for Scientific American magazine.  It was the magazine’s most popular column ever.  I have run into Gardner enthusiasts many times who, at the mention of his name, begin to glow with enthusiasm and gush personal stories of Gardner’s influence in their lives.  My favorite quote about Gardner was written by Persi Diaconis, “Warning: Martin Gardner has turned dozens of innocent youngsters into math professors and thousands of math professors into innocent youngsters.”  ​

Glass Sculpture


I design, cut, paint, fire and assemble stained glass into “multifaceted portraits” which include painted images, quotes, symbols, text and items.

The “Mathematician’s Pensieve” is a 12 X 12 X 12 inch glass tetrahedron with various “memories” placed inside. Memories are captured in items, such as a glass icosahedron, glass octahedron, prism, paper hexaflexagon, mathematical notes on paper, Kepler drawing, abacus, key, polyhedra dice and glass crystal.​

The multifaceted portrait of John Nash includes references to his work, for which he won both Nobel and Abel prizes.  Images of Nash and his wife, Alicia, a quote from Nash, his signature and some of his notes, along with many other references to his life are also included.  The mirrored pyramid, inside the 8.5 in. stained glass cube, directs the light throughout the glass.  The reflections in the pyramid create four different "floors" in the portrait, depending on the viewer's angle of sight.​

The three-paneled glass portrait of actor Reginald L. Barnes includes several of his quotes, painted on glass and assembled in front of mirrors, and multiple images of his family and him.

Angelic Aunt Hazel is painted on three layers of antique clear glass.​

Using Gardner’s autobiography, Undiluted Hocus-Pocus, his numerous columns and books, and conversations with individuals who knew him, I have included a number of references to his life in this “multi-faceted” portrait….such as hexaflexagons, encoded words, “Alice” imagery and rainbow colors captured in glass (the two pocket watches are set to 2:10).  This glass portrait-sculpture is 11 X 12 X 9 inches.  Three of the preliminary 18 X 24 inch drawings are shown below.   Did I capture Martin Gardner in a compact portrait?  Not possible.  Quoting renowned mathematician, and Gardner’s personal friend, John Horton Conway, “Martin Gardner was the most learned man I have ever met.  He wrote articles and books for mathematicians, magicians and puzzle lovers.  And he didn’t even get quantum mechanics wrong!”.​​

I collaborated with John Horton Conway on this stained glass, multifaceted portrait of him.  The 14 X 18 X 18 in. sculpture is primarily a depiction of Conway's Cosmogram, which I fabricated in stained glass.  The various inscriptions of the Platonic solids in each other are all visible in the Cosmogram.  I designed, painted and fired images on some of the glass pieces, including a portrait of Conway, one of his quotes and another quote about him, his signature, the ratios of the edges and volumes of the Platonic solids inscribed and several of Kepler's great stellated dodecahedra from his "Harmonices Mundi".  Conway is Princeton's John von Neumann Professor in Applied and Computational Mathematics (now emeritus).

The 8.5 in. cube multifaceted portrait of Dr. Richard Feynman includes some of Feynman's diagrams, achievements, three quotes, “O-ring” feet, and other images from his life, including scenes from Tuva.  Feynman would sometimes use Tuva, the geographic center of Asia, to inspire his students and others to reach for, and discover, new things.  Travel to Tuva was a long time goal for Feynman, which was not realized.  Scenes of Tuva are painted on four interior panels of the multifaceted cube.  If an observer looks down through the top of the cube, where Feynman's portrait is painted, the mirror at the bottom reflects Feynman's image in the center of the Tuva images.​