Arts & Culture

Dana Oland: Origami blends math, art and tradition at the Boise Art Museum

A single sheet of paper can become anything in the hands of an origami artist. Just fold it, and fold again, and again, and so on and the potential is endless, says Robert J. Lang, one of the origami artists whose work is featured in “ Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami” that’s opening at the Boise Art Museum. You can meet the show’s curator Meher McArthur at an opening reception Oct. 23.

Origami is an art form filled with elegance and beauty, Lang says.

“There are always new boundaries and new creations that might seem impossible. It’s an endless series of puzzles and accomplishments,” Lang says.

Lang worked as an adviser for this exhibition and wrote an introductory essay in the catalog. He’s one of 43 master-folders from around the globe who created figures and shapes that range from intriguing to mind-blowing for this exhibit.

Lang got hooked at age 6 by following a pattern in a magazine. At 10, he did his first original design. The art form continued to captivate him while he studied electrical engineering and applied physics in college and when he worked as a physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He turned to origami full time in 2001. His works are in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

On the side, he now does research for the Washington State University and consults on projects that apply origami techniques to real-world problems.

Origami originated in Japan. Buddhist monks brought paper from China in the 6th century. An extreme luxury item, the “oru kami,” or “paper folding,” began as a ceremonial activity in the 17th century.

It grew in popularity in the U.S. in the 1950s when origami cranes became a symbol of world peace. Then, in the 1960s, grandmaster folder Akira Yoshizawa‘s universal origami instructional code became known in the U.S.

“By using the same system, origami artists had a common language,” Lang says. “They shared ideas and built off of each other and expanded the world of origami.”

New patterns and techniques emerged as the calculations behind it became broader. In the 1990s, the math and engineering that govern origami began influencing other fields. Today, origami is used to create everything from robotics to satellite solar arrays to auto air bags.

The show also includes origami-related woodblock prints, photograph murals and videos.

Robert Lang talks about math and the relationship to origami.


The Modern Hotel is holding a micro-fiction contest for its final installment of this year’s “ Campfire Stories,” a reading series that runs July to October.

Writers Alan Heathcock and Christian Winn will read scary stories from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 31. You can join in by submitting your own hotel-based horror story using the opening line, “There had been an argument down the hall.”

Your creepy tale of 390 words or fewer must be submitted by midnight on Oct. 25 — one story per person. The top three will win Modern gift cards and have their stories read at the event. Attendees who dress in costume at the event will receive happy-hour prices. Find more contest details here.


These theaters are brewing up comedy, music and dance for the holiday season. Find details in 10 Days Out.