Michael Schultheis

Michael Schultheis has a B.A. in economics from WSU and an M.S. in labor economics from Cornell, but he does all his calculations in paint on canvas in his small Ballard art studio. His former life as a software engineer and his passion for math steal into his acrylic abstractions as seemingly random numbers and subconscious computations. Turns out, these are complete and accurate formulae. But despite cerebral titles like "Cardioids," "Hypocycloids," and "Ten Equal Tangents," which will send even the finest minds running to a technical dictionary, these expansive canvasses aren't aloof intellectual studies, but passionate explorations of analytical thought exploding into swirls of color that sometimes take the form of recurring shapes—which happen to be mathematically precise. Treating his canvas like a blackboard, Schultheis uses a Japanese calligraphy brush to write out an equation, which he then submerges in layers of paint, only to etch it out again later with an X-Acto knife. He achieves an oil-like luster with acrylics, and a richness of color that evokes Odilon Redon's sensual Symbolist visions. Some of his cardioid shapes could pass for Monet's water lilies (or, perhaps more accurately, Monet's jellyfish). His work is also currently on display at the National Academy of Sciences. Wittingly or not, his paintings capture the age-old struggle between irrational artistic impulses and the rigid logic of reason. In his work, Schultheis has found a place where both can coexist, thus proving this dichotomy false. Ballard/Fetherston, 818 E. Pike St., 206-322-9440, www.ballardfetherstongallery.com. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Ends Jan. 7.

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