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Transition of John Sims: Arts Activist, Afrofuturist, & Polymath

by Dr. Lisa Merritt

We shall miss the dynamic presence of Artist, Math professor, the gentle giant and local treasure of a man known as John Sims.

John Sims, a Detroit native, was a conceptual artist, writer and social justice activist, who created art and curatorial projects spanning the areas of installation, performance, text, music, film and large-scale activism, informed by mathematics, design, the politics of white supremacy, sacred symbols/anniversaries, and poetic/political text.

He was a forerunner in the interdisciplinary field of math art, work that eloquently depicts the interplay of patterns in the natural world that lend themselves to artistic interpretation, such as the infinite digital sequence of π. Sims’ work is featured in “The Art of Pi,” the first chapter in the book Math Art: Truth, Beauty, and Equations by Stephen Omes. (For more on Sims and math art, see: Q&A Sims about Math Art, Math Artist John Sims is living a life of pi, and Rhythm of Structure: Mathematics, Art, and Poetic Reflection)

His work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, The Guardian, The Root, ThinkProgress, Al Jazeera, Guernica, Art in America, Transition, Sculpture, Fiber Arts, Science News, and the science journal Nature. He wrote for major publications such as CNN, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, Guernica Magazine, The Rumpus and The Grio.

Below, find just a few examples of Sims’ artwork and contributions.

Left: Dr. Lisa Merritt stands in front of Sims' Afro Confederate Flags. Right: Sims poses in front of his signature Afro Confederate Flag.

American Minefields: A JOHN SIMS TRILOGY

As part of the Sarasota Film Festival 2022, The Ringling and SFF co-presented an evening of films by John Sims and talk back with the artist. The films "2020: (Di)Visions of America," "The AfroDixieRemixes: The Confederate Memorial Chapel Listening Session," and "Recoloration Proclamation" establish a powerful retrospective of Sims’ prolific works over more than a decade focusing on themes that address critical issues pressing American contemporary politics and culture. The evening’s program featured the artists' films and a post-screening talk back with the artist, who was a 20-21 Artist in Residence at The Ringling.

Pi Day is for Everyone by John Sims

A piece from Sims’ “Square Root of Love Exhibition.”

Dr. Lisa Merritt, Amara Merritt, and John Simms pose in front of a piece from “The Square Root of Love” circa 2012.

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