Detail: "After the Mona Lisa 2," 85" x 86", uses 5184 spools of thread hanging on steel ball chain in front of an acrylic viewing sphere. (© Devorah Sperber)
New York artist Devorah Sperber had been carving sculptures out of substances like volcanic rock, limestone and alabaster when a digital photo of one of her past works suddenly provided new inspiration.
It was the mid-1990s — the early days of digital photography — and Sperber was captivated by how her three-dimensional sculpture had been transformed into what she once described as pixels of “digital nothingness.”
The photo prompted Sperber to consider how the brain makes sense of what it sees and motivated her to pursue a different kind of sculpture-making, one that explores the relationship between art, technology and how the human mind processes information.
Since then, Sperber has deconstructed famous images of art and pop culture like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” by using thousands of pieces of ordinary objects, including spools of thread, pen caps, tacks, beads and Swarovski crystals.
The result is manually pixelated art, abstractions that look familiar but only become clear when glimpsed through accompanying optical devices including viewing spheres and reversed binoculars.
According to Sperber, the effect is supposed to mimic how the eye reacts to brain directives.
“As a visual artist, I cannot think of a topic more stimulating and yet so basic than the act of seeing — how the human brain makes sense of the visual world,” she says.