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The Nostalgia Broker

Alex Shear's Obsession with consumerism Has Created a Mirror of Modern America
Melissa Milgrom
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 5)

Factory Folk Art One-of-a-kind artifacts, like tin men, constructed of industrial grade materials, including scraps pulled off an assembly line.

Obsession Art /Waste Basket Art/Passions-in-Paper/Recycled Art Creations made from garbage: lamps made of glued Popsicle sticks, wallets woven out of cigarette packages, bubblegum wrapper chains, soda can pull-tab wreaths and matchstick houses.

They-Should-Have-Been-Designing-for-Detroit Art Wooden car models built by assembly-line workers in home workshops.

Precursor-to-the-First-Man-On-the-Moon Art Housewares inspired by rocketry and aviation; flying saucer coffeepots; tubular aluminum rocket-inspired sleds; Buck Rogersesque stainless steel hair dryers.

Twinkle-in-the-Eye Art Objects that make a statement in a humorous, mischievous or scathing way. For example, the 1995 board game "Squeeze the Juice: The Game Where Lawyers Get Rich and Justice Comes at a Hefty Price;" the Pet Wok in response to the Pet Rock; Vietnam War "theater art" denim jacket with an embroidered Snoopy wielding a machine gun.

By-Product Art Objects that appropriate materials, technology or designs from other industries, such as a 1950s Formica purse made by the Mica Purse Company, and a 1946 streamlined toaster with airplane-inspired evacuation chutes that eject toast, designed by aviation engineers who needed work after the war effort.

Recalls/Planned Obsolescence/Products That Didn't Sell Examples include package designs with misspelled graphics; experimental plastic Coke cans with aluminum tops; fragile ceramic toasters; a 1950s child's toothbrush in the shape of a .38-caliber pistol (the child had to insert the barrel of the gun into his mouth in order to brush).

Lost Their Luster Beyond retro; 1950s Coppertone Candi doll that is bronzed and scented; 1960s Krazee Hubs hubcaps with mod-daisy patterns for hippie vans; beauty parlor photos of beehive hairdos with names like Swirl High/Swing Low, Petite Whirl-A-Do, Flutter Coif and Little Miss Caper-Cap.

Knock-offs Items that infringe on or violate copyrights, trademarks and intellectual property (a.k.a. coat-tail riding; ambush marketing). Lite Saver candles and Lead Saver pencil sharpeners that knock off Life Savers' striped packaging. A Swiller beer lighter with a logo that mimics Miller beer.

Just Like Mommy/Just Like Daddy Toys that socialize children into gender roles, such as "The Bride Game: A Make-believe Game for Girls;" toy electric irons; the Kidd-E-Kar-Wash kit ("Shine 'em Up Like Dad Does! Wax! Polish! Clean!").

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