Joseph Cornell was an arm chair traveller, he used his quirky imaginations and talented hands to transport him to wherever he thought of. He created shadow boxes, unique little pieces of art, made with things he has collected from second hand shops. The notion of travel was very central to his art even though he hardly ventured from his home town. He used the boxes he made to escape to places of interest to him. They show his fascination with subjects from literature and ornithology to astronomy and cinema and his love of European culture, from the ballet to Renaissance Italy.
Joseph Cornell was entirely self taught, he had no formal training in art, he couldn’t draw, sculpt or paint and he made these assemblages on his own, he was a very quiet man, and I think this craft suited his personality, it is something you can sit down for hours and work in silence and take your time placing each element in carefully thought out parts of the box.
His form of travel came from him visiting Manhattan and collecting small objects, postage stamps, maps etc. from second hand shops. It became the most practical form of travel to him because he was committed to staying home to look after his mother and brother. He loved the romantic idea of travelling and voyaging.
He did not like being called an artist, he preferred to be called a maker or designer, because he wanted his creations to relate to everyone not just those interested in art. It was during the 1920’s working as a textiles salesman, that during his lunch breaks he would wander around a begin his collections. He loved that he never knew what he would discover in these old junk shops.
It was after losing his job because of the great depression that his work was first exhibited in the Julien Levy gallery, in the first surrealist exhibition in America.
Tilly- Losch, 1935 takes its name from the Viennese actress and dancer Tilly Losch and this piece of work shows his interest in Hollywood films. It is a dream like scene which plays with the notions of memories and childhood. At a glance it reminds me of the nursery rhyme, There was an old woman tossed up in a basket. It is a very pretty and simple scene.
I think his work is such a beautiful way to display old archived images, they are like little pockets of history, filled with memorabilia. I like the old put together look they have too, I have never really been keen on collages but like this I think they look so interesting.