[ by Charles Cameron — borrowing as the nature of creativity from lichen to origami, copyright ]


Lichen covered wall, Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo. Cusco, Peru


Leonardo in his Treatise on Painting came up with what he called “a new theoretical invention for knowledge’s sake … of great utility in bringing out the creativity in some of these inventions”:

This is the case if you cast your glance on any walls dirty with such stains or walls made up of rock formations of different types. If you have to invent some scenes, you will be able to discover them there in diverse forms, in diverse landscapes, adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, extensive plains, valleys, and hills. You can even see different battle scenes and movements made up of unusual figures, faces with strange expressions, and myriad things which you can transform into a complete and proper form constituting part of similar walls and rocks. These are like the sound of bells, in whose tolling, you hear names and words that your imagination conjures up.

Borrow, he says, from nature.

Michelangelo, you may recall, used to see statues in chunks of marble, then chip away the excess to reveal what had been there all along…


The stone-cutters whose marvelous ingenuity pieced together the stone wall in the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo, Peru, depicted above in a photo by Teosaurio (under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license) borrowed stone from nature in somewhat the same manner, brilliantly.

Nature repaid the compliment, adding the colors of lichen to the sunlit and shadowed grey of stone.


In Paris, the artist Mademoiselle Maurice has been adding her own kind of lichen to the shadowed and sunlit walls of Paris, in an installation she calls spectrum – her lichen being composed entirely of small, colored origami folds, by way of honoring the origami peace cranes of Hiroshima artist Sadako Sasaki.

image: Mlle Maurice, abstract paper rainbow



Origami is an exquisite art in its own right, demonstrating once again that mathematics belongs as much to the arts and humanities as it does to the sciences and technology.

[Consider this bleeding together of arts and sciences as something of a crusade of mine. Photography is art, and it does not became science just because the photograph is of stars rather than stones: photography is science, and it does not become art simply because the stars are beautiful.]

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