City of Knoxville Tennessee Arts CommissionAmerican Alliance of Museum

October 30, 2009– March 14, 2010 --- Videos Online

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. “As a visual artist,” she says, “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.”

Using ordinary spools of thread, Sperber creates pixilated, 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.” Sperber selected The Last Supper and Mona Lisa because they are two of the most recognizable and reproduced images in the history of art.

Media support for this exhibition is provided by:


Devorah Sperber
After van Eyck (detail), 2006
96 x 100 x 60 inches
5024 thread spools, viewing sphere
Courtesy of the artist

Devorah Sperber
After The Last Supper (detail), 2005
84 x 348 x 108
20,736 thread spools, viewing sphere
Courtesy of the artist

Devorah Sperber
After The Mona Lisa 2 (detail), 2005 2
84.5 x 87.5 x 72
5184 thread spools, viewing sphere
Courtesy of the artist