Interested in the links between art, science, and technology through the ages, New York artist, Devorah Sperber deconstructs familiar images to address the way the brain processes visual information versus the way we think we see. Using ordinary spools of thread, Sperber creates pixelated, inverted images of masterpieces, which appear as colorful abstractions to the naked eye. When viewed with optical devices, however, the works becomes immediately recognizable as the famous paintings.
The thread spools works are hung upside down in reference to the fact that the lens of the eye projects an inverted image of the world onto the retina, which is corrected by the brain. A clear acrylic sphere, positioned in front of each work, functions like the human eye and brain, not only inverting but also focusing the image so that it appears as a sharp, faithful, right-side-up reproduction of the famous painting.
The concept was based on the technology of print making and how mechanical reproductions alter images and the scale of artworks as they exist in “the mind’s eye”.
Describe yourself in five words.
A passionate, focused, intense, funny, dog-lover
What inspires you?
It’s hard to say specifically because I find inspiration literally everywhere.
If you could live in a different era, which one would it be?
The future—I’m very curious to see what happens next.
It seems that "spools of thread" inspire you with stunning results. What is hidden behind this specific selection of material?
Nothing is hidden. Thread spools are stunningly beautiful objects and they happen to be pixel-like in their shape.
How did everything start?
I am a believer in the “Big Bang” theory. My personal big bang was asking myself the question “How does a sculptor, who deals with mass, volume, and materiality, respond to the digital nothingness of a pixel.”
Supposing Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and Jan van Eyck are alive and so close to you that they are able to hear you...how would you react...what you would say to each one separately?
I tend to be shy when meeting people I admire, so I’d likely be a little tongue tied. I guess I’d want to show da Vinci and van Eyck my work based on their work and ask them what they thought. Picasso… hmmmm… he was such a ladies man, I think I’d keep my distance.
How much time do you need for the completion of each piece of art?
It ranges from a month to 6 months.
Could you give us a small description of the design process of your “thread sculptures”?
This recent PBS feature program focuses on my process:
You are going for a weekend “somewhere” and you have to invite 7 famous people, dead or alive. Where would you go and who would they be?
I’m not that social these days. I’d rather go to a dog agility camp or competitive trial (my hobby). I’d bring my husband, my dog of course, any friends (and their dogs) who also love to do dog agility.
What does art mean to you and what makes it different from design?
That line is getting fuzzier and fuzzier which I think is a good thing for art and design. I can’t say for sure what art means to me other than it is what I do most days, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather to earn a living.
"After Vermeer 2," 2006, 5,024 spools of thread, stainless steel ball chain and hanging apparatus, clear acrylic viewing sphere, metal stand (104"-122" h x 100” w x 60”- 72"d)
Which is your favourite artwork and why?
Impossible to answer—there are aspects of different works that I like best, but I don’t have a favourite work.
Describe me the perfect day?
Today is perfect so far, I just heard my dog’s toenails ticking on the floor upstairs and here he is greeting me with a wagging tail and sleepy face. The sun is just rising here in Woodstock, New York, I have a hot cup of coffee in front of me, a clear idea of work to be done in the studio today, dinner with friends at my favourite restaurant in Woodstock “The Bear” and spring is just around the corner.