Spy Decoder Ring

  • Barbara Walter, Spy Decoder Ring, 1995, sterling silver with plastic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Sylvia and Eric Elsesser, 2002.72.4A-E

Luce Center Label

Spy Decoder Ring recalls the plastic decoder rings that once came in cereal boxes. Here the artist plays with the notion of espionage as a romantic childhood fantasy. If the author and the recipient of the encoded message have the same cipher, or code, each may translate the written text into understandable phrases. The four figures on the ring function as handles to move the alphabet around, but, dressed in business clothes, they also call to mind the spies who blend in with ordinary citizens.

Luce Object Quote

“The myriad connotations of words allow messages to be misconstrued---often, as in puns, with humorous results.” Artist quoted in Touch of a Finger; Turn of a Phrase: Ring Toys of Barbara Walter

Title
Spy Decoder Ring
Artist
Date
1995
Location
Not on view
Dimensions
1 5/8 x 1 1/4 x 5/8 in. (4.1 x 3.2 x 1.6 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Sylvia and Eric Elsesser

Mediums
Mediums Description
sterling silver with plastic
Classifications
Keywords
  • Occupation – crime – spy
  • Figure group
  • Dress – accessory – hat
Object Number
2002.72.4A-E
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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1997
gourd, waxed linen, silver and glass beads, fine silver, mother-of-pearl buttons, polymer clay, photographic transfers, paper and paint