• Sylvia Hyman, Bookmobile, 2008, porcelain, stoneware, underglazes, silver leaf, adhesive, and paint, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Morgan Keegan and Co., Inc., 2009.45

Sylvia Hyman began creating trompe l’oeil pieces in 1967. Trompe l’oeil, which is French for fool the eye,” refers to a highly realistic illusion that causes the viewer to question the reality of what they are seeing. At first glance, Bookmobile appears to be eleven random books stored haphazardly in a corrugated cardboard box, yet Hyman skillfully sculpted it entirely out of porcelain and stoneware. Each book somehow relates to the artist and her family in a kind of self-portrait. Danger Music is a murder mystery written by Hyman’s daughter, whereas The Jews on Tin Pan Alley refers to her Jewish heritage. Even Computers Simplified, which initially seems out of place among three books about clay and an art history textbook, plays an important role in the piece. Together, these books represent the contrast between old (clay) and new (computers) technologies and how Hyman, who uses both, continues to grow as an artist.

I want this work to bring into question the usual assumptions about works of art in general and sculpture in particular. I’m thinking about the nature of reality and erroneous perceptions. The porcelain clay may look just like paper or the stoneware clay may look just like wood but that’s the medium and not the message.” Artist’s statement
141814 12 in. (35.645.736.8 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Morgan Keegan and Co., Inc.

Mediums Description
porcelain, stoneware, underglazes, silver leaf, adhesive, and paint
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