After Grant Wood (American Gothic) 3, 2010

Sometimes you just need to get out of your chair and go do something to spark your creativity and get you completely inspired. I did that today.

A friend of mine who has been a long-time volunteer at the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) in Rochester, NY, invited me to a lecture on “Matisse as Printmaker,” and then to view the show of Henri Matisse’s prints. It was a fantastic lecture and exciting show as was the companion show of Alexander Matisse’s ceramics. (Alexander is Henri’s great grandson.) Perhaps I will give you more info on those shows later. Just know that I came home inspired and refreshed and have 3 quilt designs in mind based on what I saw today. I also bought a couple of books and I’ll share those with you another time.

Back to Grant Wood. Many (most?) of you know the iconic painting called “American Gothic” by Grant Wood. You know – the farm couple standing with the pitchfork in front of the gothic-looking farmhouse? Here’s a picture if you’re not sure.

Grant Wood's American Gothic

Grant Wood’s American Gothic

In 2010, the MAG commissioned Devorah Sperberg to create a work of art. And aren’t you surprised at the medium that was chosen? Spools of thread. Yes. 4,392 spools of thread. The piece is 107” x 90”. It’s crazy. But it gets even crazier because it is completely upside down. Yes, that’s right. If you are standing before it you might not recognize it for what it is – “American Gothic” re-imagined, upside down and created from spools of thread.

After Grant Wood (American Gothic) 3, 2010  by Devorah SperbergImage

After Grant Wood (American Gothic) 3, 2010 by Devorah Sperberg shown at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY

To view this intriguing piece of work, you must stand back from it – much like you would for an impressionist painting. When you stand back you do notice it better but still – it’s upside down. The second part of this visual experience is when you pick up a wand with an acrylic ball attached to it. Next, hold the ball up to the work and viola! American Gothic appears right-side up in the ball – as it should be viewed. Magic.

Sperber is interested in how the mind processes what it sees. In 2005 she stated, “I am interested in the link between art and technology, how the eyes prioritize, and reality as a subjective experience vs. an absolute truth. 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.”


For more information on this work, visit Sperber’s web site at Her web site says that the work was partially funded by Coats & Clark so I’m guessing that’s who supplied the spools.

To visit the MAG – Or, if you’re in the Rochester area, visit in person.

I would love to hear your response to this piece of art. -Betsy



2 thoughts on “After Grant Wood (American Gothic) 3, 2010

  1. Wow, Betsy! 4,392 spools of thread? I guess I would have to see it in person as I’m having trouble visualizing it. I, also, can’t image the cost of the thread without the grant from Coats & Clark. I know when you piece quilts, you can go through a lot of thread, but I wonder if anyone has an idea of how many spools one might go through in a lifetime of sewing? Now, I’ve gone off topic. I just checked her website and found a couple of her thread spool art pieces. OMG, a couple used over 20,000 spools!


    • Karen – thanks for your reply. The art piece is really quite pretty. The thread is all on white spools and the thread (on the spools) sort of has a sheen to it – no stray threads that I could see. Pretty perfect. Glad you liked it. -Betsy


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