The Mathematics of Helaman Ferguson’s Four Canoes
Helaman Ferguson, Four Canoes, University of Saint Thomas
Helaman Ferguson’s massive sculpture, entitled Four Canoes, resides outside of the Science and Engineering Center on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. (See  for pictures of the artwork and installation process). The sculpture consists of two linked granite “donuts”, one red and the other black. Each measures six feet in diameter, and weighs more than three tons. These donuts rest on granite pedestals rising two feet above thirty jagged granite hexagons that tile the ground beneath the sculpture. So, why is it called Four Canoes? What does it have to do with mathematics? What is the significance of the tiling? What rules govern placement of the individual tiles? Is it periodic? Why don’t the donuts wobble or fall off the pedestals? By combining different mathematical approaches, this paper will attempt to answer these questions.