George Widener


  • self portrait, 2020, mixed media on paper, 122 x 152 cm
  • untitled, (internal rhythm), 2016, mixed media on paper, 66 x 117 cm
  • untitled, 2016, mixed media on paper, 36.5 x 29.9 cm
  • The Yes/No Machine (with instruction from God), 2014, mixed media, 20 x 50 x 37 cm
  • Baccarat, 2015, marker on paper, 40.5 x 58 cm
  • I was born, 2012, mixed media on paper, 217 x 147 cm
  • untitled (cipher maps), 2013, mixed media on paper, 153 x 144 cm
  • Birthday map (Weekends), 2012, mixed media on paper, 135 x 171,5 cm

George Widener was born in 1962 in Covington, Kentucky. He lives and works in the small mountain village of Waynesville in North Carolina. In his early years, he developed a passion for mathematical computation and all manner of statistics and data, especially calendars. It was his obsessive habit to translate every number that he encountered into a calendar date. Some years later, George Widener, seen as a savant with an extraordinary aptitude for numbers, was diagnosed as suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome.

Later, Widener began to intentionally transform his fascination with numbers to which a collection of calendars, punctilious lists and drawings attest, into artistic works containing complex calendars, palindromes, historical landscapes, and translations of eastern calligraphic scrolls. Since 2000, he has focused particularly on large-format, highly complex drawings in which various aspects of cartography, mathematics, and numerology can be found.

Detailed architectural structures, lists of data, and computations based on the Magic Triangle form the grid of a number of correlations aimed at making visible contemporary historical connections and developments as well as the coding of random mathematical systems and historical arbitrariness. For the development of diagrams and codes he has preferred to use data that are connected to historical events and personalities or that refer to his own life story. The new form of visualization of events as a complex system of numbers and letters in George Widener’s works makes it possible to reevaluate specific historical phenomena.

Catastrophes exert a great attraction on Widener. He has listed, for example, the dates and numerical references pertaining to all airplane crashes that have occurred on a Sunday, their correlations seemed to have enabled him to determine the dates of future crashes.

The sinking of the Titanic is the topic of a series of Widener’s drawings and installations. The topic appears in his work in both illustrative form and in the accumulation of dates and numbers that refer to the historical event. This accumulation of data serves to a certain extent to represent intellectual reflection, but is rather a part of his inner data world, the basic system of his perception. One of Widener’s hopes is that the codes and algorithms which he developed and which are incomprehensible to the present general population will be meaningful to super intelligent, high-performance computers of the future and as such will have enabled Widener in effect to have contributed to their design and in so doing, make them “ a little more user friendly.“