Joseph Cornell

cornell-abeilles
Object (Abeilles) 1940

Do you know of Joseph Cornell? I’ll try to describe him for you. He is an American sculptor, collagist, and filmmaker who lived from 1903—1972; I think his most successful period was between 1935 through the 1960’s. He was a unique kind of sculptor because it was almost like he created these other world, theatrical scenes – a shadow box was your proscenium theater, found objects were the actors and the scenery, and parts from books and magazines – plain or collaged, was the backdrop. People did like to label him a surrealist, but he shunned that title.

Collector of Found Objects

You could definitely say he was a collector. He collected found objects from book stores and thrift stores of New York, he collected experiences attending ballet and theatrical performances, and he collected knowledge of the people he admired. As he created his art, he collected his own ideas, feelings, and processes. He balanced his responsibilities of providing for his mom and brother by having a regular job – at first as a salesman, but eventually as a textile designer and a magazine layout artist. But somehow he found a second wind to create shadow box worlds, collages, and avant-garde films to satisfy his creative needs.

cornell-habitat-group
Habitat Group for a Shooting Gallery 1943

Want to know more?

If you want to know more, you should explore Lynda Roscoe Hartigan’s Peabody Essex Museum microsite http://www.pem.org/sites/cornell/# , this will inspire you “to pursue uplifting voyages into the imagination.” There are lots of other places to learn more about him, but I really like the feeling they evoke in the discovery.

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