Father Magnus Wenninger, Mathematician

The folks who rank as internet celebrities in Sight Unseen’s world — usually those with a killer eye and a massive following on Tumblr or Instagram — would no doubt seem obscure to most. But even our regular readers might be surprised by today's unconventional yet equally influential story subject. A few years ago, after stumbling across some articles about mathematician Father Magnus Wenninger on the web, we added him to our “Minnesota” file, whose sole other occupant at the time was RO/LU; earlier this summer, we finally had an occasion to open said file when SU contributor Debbie Carlos asked if she could shoot anything for us there. Carlos was game enough to track down the nonagenarian priest — who became a cult figure in the mathematics world (and later in the online world) for his elaborate paper-polyhedron models — in his home at St. John’s Abbey outside Minneapolis. Not only did she photograph Wenninger and his works, she got him to open up about his history and his methodology as well.
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What inspires your work in general? “I find a lot of design very formulaic. Take a ‘concept’ (which usually means simple visual inspiration) and then water it down.  For me, it’s always been the opposite.  I try and let anything that’s happening in my life into the work. We have this idea that design shouldn't be too complex, but the objects I love are always very difficult to place. Lately I've been thinking about how there’s no longer separation between any kind of spaces or thoughts. I think that kind of haphazardness needs to show up in design. In the studio I call it the wild card; for instance, the wedge on the neon table is totally the wild card. The surface is very Memphis, but gouged into an ebonized wood chunk. They feel right together, but it’s because we're getting so accustomed to this phenomena.”

24-Year-Old Misha Kahn May End Up Being Our Biggest Discovery Yet

The first time we met Misha Kahn, he was slapping gold metallic wallpaper with long-lashed googly eyes onto the walls of a tiny room we’d afforded four RISD students at our 2011 Noho Design District showcase. We were never sure quite what to make of the wallpaper — was it technically even “furniture design,” or was it more a piece of Surrealist art? — but we knew from first sight that we loved it. Which is pretty much how we’ve felt about all of the work that’s followed from the Brooklyn-based, Duluth, Minnesota–born designer’s studio, whether it’s a pink bench made from layers of resin and trash, a series of tables that resemble Froebel blocks on acid, or sewn cement pieces that look like the work of a woozy Jeff Koons.
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