The inner beauty of everyday objects

by Stephanie Chasteen on April 8, 2009

A (sort of) recent story in the NY Times highlighted the wonderful work of Satre Stuelke, a medical student and former art professor who co-opted the CT scanner for his own aesthetic purposes.  Below is just one of the images that resulted — a wind-up toy bunny:

Photo: Satre Stuelke

Photo: Satre Stuelke

This is a tin wind-up drumming bunny toy. I was amazed with the complexity and ingeniousness of the internal mechanism. .

Also surprisingly beautiful is the Big Mac:

Photo: Satre Stuelke

Photo: Satre Stuelke

Says Stuelke:

It was bought at the lunch rush hour and it is apparent from the placement of pickles, sauce and lettuce that the chef was under pressure.

Check out the whole slideshow and article in the Times.

What I love about this work is the revealing of the previously hidden (see my earlier post on Seeing the Unseen for the work of Ned Kahn, an artist who reveals the invisible through completely different techniques).  All these aspects of these objects are there, but we aren’t normally privy to them.  There is a ghostly aesthetic, even in the curvature of the box holding the Big Mac.  One of my favorite exhibits at the Chicago Museum of Art was that of objects from the art deco period — a chair with graceful lines, a perfect plate, a table with ornate legs.

Image:  Kent Wang

Image: Kent Wang

It’s easy to lose sight of the wonder of the ordinary, especially since everyday items aren’t made with the sleek lines of a Swingline stapler, for the most part, anymore. But I love getting a look at these items from a different point of view. I’ve always loved factories for the same reason, and tour one any chance I get. Modern industry is so curious in its intricate workings. Stuelke’s images just give us one glimpse of that wonder.

For that reason, I’ve always been curious to read the book The Design of Everyday Things
, but never got around to it.

The review on Amazon says it all — I’ve got to read this book sometime!

Anybody who has ever complained that “they don’t make things like they used to” will immediately connect with this book. Norman’s thesis is that when designers fail to understand the processes by which devices work, they create unworkable technology. Director of the Institute for Cognitive Sciences at University of California, San Diego, the author examines the psychological processes needed in operating and comprehending devices. Examples include doors you don’t know whether to push or pull and VCRs you can’t figure out how to program. Written in a readable, anecdotal, sometimes breezy style, the book’s scholarly sophistication is almost transparent.


Debbie April 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Intriguing. Have you read Andrea Meyer’s blog piece about the design of the Toyota Prius? I think you might appreciate it.

jerrie hurd April 12, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Loved this discussion of inner beauty. A sucker for good art any day. Thanks for sharing them.

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