Review: Through the Lens of Frank Styburski: Stunning Photos of Household Objects

Most of us don’t pay close attention to the visual details of everyday objects that we use in our home. Items such as scissors, spools of thread or clothes hangers serve a specific function, so we often don’t see them as aesthetically pleasing or possessing any interesting features.

In the latest exhibition, Little Things: Domestic Distractions, at Perkolator, a café in Portage Park, we get a fresh look at many mundane household items through the eyes of photographer Frank Styburski. On display are 29 photographs of household items that can be found in cabinet drawers, kitchen countertops or in a toolbox. Styburski takes us on an amazing visual journey where he removes household objects from the context of function in order to draw attention to their shape, color and texture.

In his photos, he stages various scenes of the objects in order to enhance a sense of space, movement and light. In some of his shots, he places multiple objects of the same item—such as drinking straws, paper clips and clothes hangers—in various patterns where the objects almost seem like living entities.  When viewing Hollow. Bent. Crinkles. Colors, the straws in this photo seem to move in a dance-like manner. That same sense of movement can also be experienced in Asteroid Field where some 20 spools of thread seem to be hurtling through space.

Frank Styburski photo
Frank Styburski, Hooks and Loops. Photograph. Photo courtesy of the artist

While the items in many of his photos can be easily identified, in some of the others there is an abstract quality at play, leaving the viewer unsure as to what the object is. A good example of this is Hooks and Loops where Styburski arranges a few clothes hangers in such a manner that we become absorbed in the maze-like pattern without knowing the actual household item that we are looking at. Another good example is Study in Pink, Green, Spirals, and Negative Space where we get so focused on the vivid colors against a black background that we don’t realize that we are looking at a group of pencil shavings. That sense of abstraction in his photos is not a drawback, but instead acts as a magnet that draws us even deeper into his work.

Styburski also creates a playful illusion in some of his photos. In one shot, he arranges a group of screws, of various shapes and sizes, standing next to each other in such a manner that it reminds us of hi-rise buildings in a city skyline. He also plays with this concept in Hungry, where three open-jaw wrenches look like the gaping mouths of hungry birds. And in Exploding, we see a dill plant with its stems stretching upward, looking like fireworks exploding in the sky.

Frank Stybursk photo
Frank Styburski, Exploding. Photograph. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Because the objects in his photos are greatly magnified, there is hyper-realism at play where we see the beauty of subtle details that we wouldn’t normally notice. A good example of this is in Loops #2 where we see the sensual shape of scissor handles with the enamel wearing away from years of use.

Some of the items that Styburski uses in his photos represent the various stages of life.  In The Elegance of Midlife, a pear is set off to the side, reminding us that despite the success we may attain in midlife, our bodies betray us as we age and lose our youthful looks.  And in Collapsing, we see a dill plant bent over in repose that gives us a chilling reminder of the cycle of life—where old age and death is inevitable.

A sign of a great exhibition is when works on display transport the viewer into the artist’s world and Little Things: Domestic Distractions does exactly that. We enter Frank Styburski’s world, a captivating realm of intentional observation, that makes us view the subtle details of life in a new light.

Little Things: Domestic Distractions will be on display at Perkolator, 6032 W. Irving Park Road, through May 14. An artist’s reception will be held on Sunday, March 26, from 12 to 2pm. Perkolator has been committed to exhibiting the works of local artists over the last few years and exhibitions change every two months. And it’s worth mentioning that this homey café is a great place to enjoy freshly roasted coffee and made-from-scratch soups and sandwiches. Hours: Monday thru Friday: 7am-3pm; and Saturday and Sunday: 8am-3pm. For more information, call 773-853-2261 or visit their website.

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Thomas Wawzenek