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Image of a crop circle.
Is it aliens? Or time travelers? Maybe a new dance craze? You be the judge!

How Art Shapes Our Lives: Optical Art & Crop Circles

By Sal Maccarone

Optical art, fractal art, abstract art, and many other forms of art rely heavily upon the placement of geometric shapes within a given space. Geometry is a language! The math that is used to create shapes — comprised of points, lines and curves — is thought to be universal. Geometric art forms can run anywhere from a simple design to giving the impression of movement.

For instance, the work of Hungarian-born Victor Vasarely (1906 – 1997) can really play tricks on one’s eye. Considered to be the father of optical art (or op art), his illusions are comprised of only circles, rectangles, and other simple geometric forms. Yet some of his lithographic art on two-dimensional paper will appear to warp into three-dimensional images.

Image of a painting by Victor Vasarely

Image by Victor Vasarely

Using a minimum of color and shape, Vasarely’s work has gone on to inspire many other optical and kinetic artists.

And then there was the famous work of Maurits Cornelis (M.C.) Escher (1898 – 1972), whose surrealistic art also utilized geometry and math as a method of creating optical illusions. The use of both plane and projective geometry is evident in much of his work.

Impossible stairways, mathematically derived shapes, and different perspectives were all employed by Escher to confuse the logic of space.

Image of an artwork by M.C. Escher.

Image by M. C. Escher

Escher’s work became very popular during the rapidly changing 1960s. Even today, many of his more than one thousand paradoxical drawings have been recreated on everything from lunch boxes to mouse pads.

Vasarely and Escher were certainly great artists of the 20th century, but a more mysterious geometric art form has recently garnered much attention around the world. Namely, the strange and sometimes unexplained shapes and patterns that appear in fields of wheat and rye. These crop circle drawings are notable because it has yet to be discovered how some of these intricate works of art are being made. Only lasting for a few days, the designs are created mostly at night, sometimes within a window of just a few hours. Some of these drawings are very large and unbelievably complicated in both scope and design. If you look at pictures taken by pilots from above, it is hard not to believe that it would take a team of people many days just to complete the layouts.

Image of a crop circle.

Unexplained crop circle

The crop circle phenomenon started receiving attention in the 1970s, mostly in England and near cultural monuments such as Stonehenge. Some early European drawings even suggest that crop circles have been reported off and on for centuries. At least that is the claim in the many books, tapes, blogs, and films on the subject these days.

The fact is that these complicated works are being reported on every continent in the world. Residents in our own Salinas Valley were amazed by a beautiful crop drawing just a few years ago. To see for yourself, please visit YouTube.

While some individuals have taken credit for making simpler crop circles with crude plywood tools, there really in no explanation to date for the larger and more elaborate designs. Human footprints are not found leading up to, near, or around some of these massive etchings. The phenomena has been given over to many theories which include messages from aliens, time travelers from our own future, portals to another dimension, and so on.

From an art perspective, these drawings are a well-thought-out form of art that demonstrates high intelligence. A big hoax? Who knows, but it is great fun to speculate about who or what is responsible for creating these mysterious drawings.

Regardless of how they are being made, these unusual compositions are a remarkable mathematically engineered forms of art! Circles, triangles, pentagons, hexagons, labyrinths, ropes, and ribbons are just some of the elements that seem to be communicating something through the art.

Image of an alien crop circle.

An alien selfie?









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