Lyman Allyn Art Museum features the works of creative photographer and tinkerer Todd McLellan
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Lyman Allyn Art Museum features the works of creative photographer and tinkerer Todd McLellan
Mantel Clock, 1928, made by E. Ingraham. Photography by Todd McLellan.

NEW LONDON, CONN.- Within every object, tool or device are dozens of components that work together to represent the highest levels of creativity, passion and achievement of their time. When it comes to the objects we use every day, the sum really is greater than the parts.

Things Come Apart, a traveling exhibition circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), features the works of creative photographer and tinkerer Todd McLellan, who explores the evolution of the smartphone and dozens of other everyday technologies. The traveling exhibition opened at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum on Saturday, Nov. 14, and remains on view through Feb. 7, 2021 before continuing its 12-city national tour.

“This exhibit reveals to us the inner workings of our favorite things,” said Sam Quigley, Director of the Lyman Allyn. If you’ve ever asked what makes a clock tick, this exhibit will be a revelation! In addition, McLellan’s images are a must-see for photography fans.”

Through more than 40 captivating photographs, videos and objects encased in acrylic, Things Come Apart displays the complex parts of products across multiple industries. McLellan spent countless hours disassembling objects of all sizes and functions—from a watch to a laptop to a Walkman and even an upright piano—into hundreds or even thousands of pieces with painstaking precision. With each object fully stripped to its basic parts, he methodically worked backwards, laying out each item in reverse order from the protective case to the smallest circuits until the true scope of each design was captured. The resulting images, grouped alongside other items built for similar purposes, provide a visual history lesson of mechanical innovation and highlight the contrast between old-world craftsmanship and sleek modern engineering.

“We don’t always think about the tools we use, but working on this project has given me a greater respect for engineering of newer technology,” said McLellan, who also disassembled bicycles, compasses and power drills, among other things. “It’s remarkable how much modern design packs into so little.”

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