A colorful Mod Podge decorates a lone black lamp sitting on the desk of Bellevue College’s Environmental and Social Responsibility Representative Sophia Trinh. With a slight gloss that dully reflects the dark figures of passing students, it hovers above a sea of sketches, drawings, and other doodles on her desk.
To the untrained eye, these sketches might seem somewhat random, disordered, or chaotic even. However, the images follow a very specific pattern that is found throughout mathematics, nature, and even our own bodies. The “pattern” is none other than the Golden Ratio. Roughly “1.6180339887,” this ratio has captivated the minds of artists, mathematicians, and philosophers alike for hundreds of years. Trinh being a devout enthusiast of this ancient idea, it has become a recurrent theme and inspiration in her art. “Math is where art and science come together,” she tells me from the seat of her borrowed wheelchair, currently a project she has taken on in order to be more empathetic to Bellevue’s paraplegic/handicapped population.
“[It’s] a balance for a things you do in life; parts in relationship to the whole.” She points to some of the sketches she has on her desk, clearly showing the golden ration at work. “[The] golden spiral is created through the golden ratio,” she explains as she points to her intricate drawings, somewhat reminiscent of a snail shell. At first glance, these sketches merely transmit a sense of simple shapes, curvature, and overall expansion. Examination at depth, however, will reveal an amazingly complex ratio of perfect balance and harmony.
Trinh’s great inspiration from the golden ratio freely stems from her love of nature and the environment. “The branches of a tree, for example, remind me of the cardiovascular system,” she explains as she points past me to a tree in the distance. She continues, “We [people] start out as seeds, and potentially grow.” In tandem with her unparalleled love of nature, comes her fascination with the human body. “I think the human body is so interesting, [because] you can do so much with it.” She continues, “Since the golden ration is found in nature and the human body, I think it’s quite fascinating from an artistic perspective.” One might mistake Trinh for a modern Da Vinci in her clear bridge of interest between the human body and what we consider “art.” On describing the heart, she explains, “The heart is what keeps us alive.” Noting that it isn’t just, “some pump,” pushing blood through us.
As she shows me more and more of her work, I ask her about her earlier years as an artist, what made the creative, artistic, and nature loving Sophia that we know today.
In two short words, she quickly replies, “Waldorf School.” The Waldorf Education system is a nationwide collection of alternative schools focusing students towards such subjects as: music, dance, theater, writing, and, of course, visual art. “Kind of like Hogwarts, a magical school for children with artistic abilities,” Trinh describes her old school. She adds, “We would go on nature walks, collect leaves, and look at plants.” On describing her past, and origins as an artist, Trinh attached a great deal of influence to her school, but also to other aspects of her childhood.
“I played with animals and plants as a kid, not Barbie dolls, “ she laughs as she grips the sides of her wheelchair, “I’ve never had television or electronics, I had art.” In going back to the fundamental inspirations of her art, we naturally flow back to the subject of the environment, a subject of great concern for Trinh.
A zealous conservationist, Trinh has taken many steps as Bellevue’s Environmental and Social Responsibility Representative to ensure that our campus is both eco-friendly and non-impactful to the environment. One of these projects has involved Trinh setting up numerous compost bins throughout the campus for recyclable trash. “Without sustaining the environment, I wouldn’t have what inspires me.”
Drawing from this ever-present source of inspiration, Trinh is left to create and produce as she pleases. She then pulls out her secret tool, “a little moleskin journal.” In this journal, she spontaneously jots down ideas, thoughts, or loose concepts that find themselves being made into complex and aesthetically pleasing forms of art that stimulate our senses, make us think, and question what we know.