Merging Art With Mathematics

By Ryan Deuel

There’s something immediately noticeable to the listener when Reid Brechner ’15 starts talking about his artwork. At first it might be hard to define, but then it becomes readily apparent: This young man simply sounds way too old for his age.

Reid speaks about his art as if he were finalizing the last chapters of his doctoral dissertation. He talks about how he has spent this past summer as a St. Lawrence University Fellow working up to 12 hours or more a day in the Griffiths Arts Center, ignoring the siren songs of summer beckoning at the studio windows. And, he speaks about his art with paternalistic pride, which makes the listener proud for him and the work that he’s done.

“Sometimes I have to work out what’s at the top of my mind,” says Reid, who is from Belgrade, Maine. “Something starts bothering me, and I can’t do anything else until I work it out of my head. Then, it’s weird when I finish because I can look back at it and know when it’s done. I’m not a parent, but it feels to me like parenthood. That’s why I do this; that’s the feeling I’ve been looking for.”

Reid was the recipient of a Daniel F. ’65 and Ann H. Sullivan Endowment for Student/Faculty Research University Fellowship, and he has been working this summer alongside Kasarian Dane, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History, on his project titled “Mathematical Underpinnings.”

Reid’s art isn’t immediately recognizable, especially to the non-art expert (such as this writer). His work involves, as he states, geometric abstraction, and it can on the outset look like simple shapes repeatedly painted in different colors on multiple canvass. Yet, as Reid expresses his thoughts on color theory, as he explains his process and as he stands with you looking fondly at his work, it becomes apparent that this artist is on a very deep and very personal artistic journey.

“Geometric abstraction has to be extremely simplistic,” he says. “Yet, it has the power and emotion that comes from the fact that anyone can experience it and they come at it from different ways.”

As much as Reid has been on his own personal expedition creating this works, he also hopes to inspire others to let the art move them emotionally.

“I’m striving for a sense of perpetual motion, and the planes of color give these an underlying sense of motion. That makes it no longer finite,” he says. “I want to force people to look inside themselves and not feel like they have to feel a certain way about it."

Reid Brechner’s artwork is currently hanging in St. Lawrence University’s Griffiths Arts Center.