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Tom Ellman

Computational Artist

As a young man, Tom was a science nerd. He studied math and physics in college; and computer science in graduate school. He taught the latter at Rutgers. Then he moved to Vassar and things began to change. He joined with a sculptor colleague to develop and teach a course in computer animation. He also began to teach courses in media studies.  Tom was never trained in studio art, but he learned a lot from teaching these courses. He began making his own art around 2014-2015. Tom also volunteers at the Barrett Art Center as their board president.

Tom calls himself a “computational artist”.  He makes computer animation; interactive digital media; and generative art. In his animated and interactive works, he creates 3D spaces in virtual reality. He places images on surfaces in the virtual world and provides a means for a viewer to navigate the space and view the images. The resulting work provides an unusual context for viewing the images, while the images add ambience to the virtual space. In his generative art, Tom writes computer programs that produce images using mathematical and algorithmic techniques.

Tom often reads and thinks about mathematics, art and the relation between them. He believes math has a lot to offer the visual arts, both as a conceptual framework for imagining new works and as a language of shape, structure and dynamics that can play a role in art criticism. In his creative work he explores combinations of order and disorder: systematic designs mixed with quasi-random shapes; repetitive patterns that are broken; and symmetries with flaws. He sees the boundary between order and disorder as a source of metaphors for aspects of human experience.