Joseph Cornell : Master of the Diorama
January 21, 2005 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Art In A Box! : Modern artist Joseph Cornell made a name for himself by creating minature collaged works in boxes back in the 1930s when collage was still a relatively new art form. While his works and life story are often romanticized, the fact remains that he was both incredibly creative and incredibly strange. Certainly one of American Art's finest. (see old mefi post from 9/02)
posted by grapefruitmoon (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Art Institute in Chicago has a very large collection of Cornell boxes. Some of them are quite spectacular. Others, quite weird. Cool stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:50 AM on January 21, 2005

I've always been partial to this one and I love Fortune Telling Parrot for the title alone. I can't go to the Art Institute in Chicago without stopping by the Cornell corner.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:10 AM on January 21, 2005

He also made some short films.
posted by kenko at 10:11 AM on January 21, 2005

Never saw the films, but Joseph Cornell has long been a favorite of mine. I lived in Chicago for a while and spent a lot of time in that particular corner--or rather corners--of the Institute.
posted by Lady Penelope at 10:31 AM on January 21, 2005

Worshiping women from afar, he lived an ascetic life, never married, never even consummated a relationship.

(His obsessive infatuations were not quite as "innocent" as is sometimes claimed. His friends recall that he would, with any encouragement, send lurid erotic fantasies to his fées; according to Caws, he even sent one a tracing of a string he had put around his penis to show its size.)

I have a friend who worked with him back in the day and they have quite a few stories of the vaguely creepy and lecherous happenings with his little following of filles, actions generally no worse than any modern rock-star and their groupies, but not the image one usually associates with Cornell. I still like his stuff, but it put me off a bit on the whole child-like wonder and naivete angle.
posted by milovoo at 10:45 AM on January 21, 2005

Nice post, grapefruitmoon. I've always liked his work, but never really knew much about the man. Thanks.
posted by shoepal at 12:12 PM on January 21, 2005

I have been fascinated with Cornell since reading Count Zero many years ago, but never got around to doing much research. These are great links!
posted by dual_action at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2005

How strange. My first thought upon seeing this was "well, grapefruitmoon obviously lives in Atlanta and attended the sold-out Cornell short films screening that we hosted at Eyedrum last night and was inspired to post this." Hmmm, your profile says you're in Iceland. Synchronicity.

Apparently the Smithsonian is putting on a big ole Cornell show in 2006 and my S.O. has informed me that we are going.

I was underwhelmed by the short films, although the Rose Hobart one (his first) was cute and the kiddie ones were fun (full program notes should be posted here later this weekend). But they certainly were not the visceral experiences that Stan Brackage's are. Scenes from his are seared on my brain forever.
posted by intermod at 6:54 PM on January 21, 2005

intermod : actually, my mention of cornell was prompted by reading two novels which discuss his work in passing. i've never even been to atlanta! (tho i am, for the record, a filthy american immigrant.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:15 PM on January 22, 2005

I was so happy when I found out (not that long ago) that Brackage's films were available on DVD. I had only seen them at museums, and had never thought to look, but now I can watch them whenever I want. Yaaa!
posted by milovoo at 11:13 AM on January 23, 2005

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