The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 15, April 10, 2022, Article 29


Nick Graver alerted me to this numismatic photomacrograph artwork currently on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Thanks! First, an overview of the exhibit. -Editor

Featuring works by 35 contemporary artists, Working Thought examines the role art can play in considering and questioning the many ways economic disparity and labor have shaped American life past and present.

Working Thought showcases artwork across media and generations, highlighting connections between diverse artistic practices. In this exhibition, a combination of new commissions and loans are presented alongside works from the museum's collection, positioning the collection in a new light and within the context of the history of Pittsburgh as a center of industry.

  Moyra Davey 1943
Moyra Davey, 1943 (detail), Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Buchholz

Here's more on the artist and artwork found elsewhere online. -Editor

Moyra Davey (born 1958) is an artist based in New York City. Davey works across photography, video, and writing.

Davey received a BFA from Concordia University in 1982 and a MFA from the University of California, San Diego in 1988. In 1989, she attended The Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program.

Since the late 1970s, Davey has built a body of work composed of photographs, writings, and video. She was previously a faculty member at the Bard College International Center of Photography Program.

To read the complete article, see:
Moyra Davey (

  Moyra Davey Copperheads

In the early 1990s, not long after the stock market crash of 1987, she began collecting pennies she found on the streets of New York. Back in her studio, she photographed them with a macro lens, which revealed their nicked and scarred surfaces and their oxidized hues. Enlarged to about the scale of a human head, each portrait shows the clear evidence of erosion and reshaping through repeated contact, each coin becoming an individual object that departs from its necessary standardization: each possesses a certain penny-ness required for its exchange value while also marking its difference in personality from each other. Davey assembled 100 portraits in a 10-by-10 grid—a dollar's worth of pennies—to literalize and concretize money at a moment of its increasing abstraction on the trading floor and speculation on the market.

Davey's photographs bring the Lincoln portrait full circle. Scholars have located over 100 separate portraits made of Lincoln—at a time when most average citizens might possess a handful of likenesses of themselves. The sculptor and medalist Victor David Brenner consulted as many of these photographs of his subject as he could as he prepared to model Lincoln's face for the new coin. From photograph to metal to photograph again, Lincoln's portrait models the circulation of currency itself. Indeed, in 1863 the distinguished Boston physician and essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes, a contemporary of Lincoln's, called the small photographic portraits that were then sweeping the nation as a fad social currency, the sentimental ‘green-backs' of civilization. Such portraits, like money, held symbolic value, with an implied faith in what they represented and in their worth on the social marketplace of portrait exchange.

Davey titled her work Copperheads, a pun on many levels. She references the pennies' materiality as well as subject matter, but she also slyly points to something more dangerous, a venomous snake with a propensity to bite. Perhaps the bite is mere nibbles, the action of thousands of anonymous hands taking small pieces out of the image of the president. Or perhaps it is a warning about the conflation of historical figures and contemporary finance, in which citizens worship at the altar of both cult and capital. In either case, Davey's work is a reminder to observe the symbols and accretions in daily life, to be sensitive to what is meaningful even if temporarily forgotten.

To read the complete article, see:
Copperheads by Moyra Davey (

For more, see:
An Artist Who Delights in the Minor Key (
Copperhead Grid 1990 (
Moyra Davey Copperhead No. 75 (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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