Where art and industrial design diverge is in the latter’s focus on functionality—the fabrication of an object for a specified use. New York-based designer Lindsey Adelman takes this process a step further. When she first experimented with lighting, her métier, she says, “I just thought about multiple points of light, then worked backwards: What’s the minimal structure necessary?” Considering the quality of her work, with its spiraling plays on our relationship with nature, it may come as a shock that beauty is an almost-unintentional outcome.

But, as Adelman explains, humans are inherently drawn to both appearances and functions that reflect natural forms. In her work, the result is an uncommon agreement between purpose and physical appeal. “It’s almost like gravitational pull,” she says. “I’m finding that, by surprise and by chance, I have such a deep interest in science.” It drives her to materials like hand-blown glass—for both the way “it looks like liquid stopped in time” as well as its unique distribution of light—and nonorganic fixtures like swivels and joints, which “look so honest, the way they’re humbly doing their job very well.”

Next spring Adelman will release a short film, fantastical in theme, in which she will design everything from the costumes to the set itself—which will then be made available to viewers for purchase. Coming from an artist who creates do-it-yourself guides that allow anyone to replicate her work, the move would seem uncharacteristically commercial, but her intentions are wholly creative and fit directly into her purpose-driven approach. “What am I saying with this mythical narrative? What am I trying to convey?” she asks. And then, “What am I trying to get my audience to do with this?”

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