Monday, 19 March 2012

Joseph Cornell: The Gift in the Box

Joseph Cornell is one of my favourite artists and one of the pioneers of assemblage. He was influenced by the Surrealists and also worked as an avant-garde experimental filmmakerIn his collage films Cornell assembled  found footage.

Cornell’s most famous for his enchanting boxed assemblages. 
As a magpie who loves all kinds of bric a brac I have always been fascinated by Cornell’s intriguing boxes. Reminiscent of receiving a present or uncovering an old box in a thrift shop or attic, it’s exciting to encompass his assemblages of what were once beautiful and precious objects and photographs. Cornell brought unwanted items back to life within a constructive context by capturing a magical sense of nostalgia and creating a story which he then presented within a simple box.

I have used Cornell's work as inspiration for many projects since discovering it in an old art book whilst at school. I was beyond excited when I discovered that the brilliant writer Jonathan Safran Froer was also  inspired by his work and to such an extent  that he produced an anthology about it. 'A Convergence of Birds' is a collection of work by a variety of writers that include Rick Moody, Joyce Carol Oates, Siri Hstvedt, Robert Pinsky, Lydia Davis, plus others, each inspired by one of Cornell’s boxes.


Cornell was a magician in that he could make something out of nothing, and something quite special at that. In his introduction, Froer sums up the magic of Cornell's work perfectly, "A gift of a gift of a gift."

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