Thursday, April 8, 2010


I have been doing research for the last few days, putting together the final touches on my MA thesis/MFA qualifying show and I have stumbled upon Joseph Cornell. What really got me started was one the collages he made in 1957 called, "The Pulse of Fashion."

In this collage Cornell was addressing "the embodiment of woman as garment and the sewing machine as creative enterprise." I have been thinking of this idea of the body as structure and architecture and prosthetics or extensions of the body being fabricated and added to the body lately and so I am completely fascinated with the idea of the female body as garment. I also found this wonderful dutch artist Margi Geerlinks who reinterpreted Cornell's collage as well as continued this idea of fabricating the body through a series of photographs she calls Crafting Humanity. In addition to the body on the sewing machine she has a woman knitting a much desired baby, and a little girl crocheting her soon to come womanly breasts.

Why do humans have this incredibly desire to shift and manipulate our bodies? I know this responsibility can not only fall onto the shoulders of fashion or media sensations, something else is there, but what?

Lets go back to Joseph Cornell here. I have not really heard of him before, however I was at the Milwaukee Art Museum over the weekend with a sculptor in the contemporary art section and saw one of his shadow boxes. Apparently, Cornell is very well known, and his boxes are very well known...where have I been? I heard he has a very interesting life story, which I need to dig a little deeper into..

Although I am not particularly interested in his shadow boxes, they do evoke a certain tone or feeling for which he has been praised for, especially considering he was not formally trained. I love finding artists that I have never heard about that have made a huge impact on art history, and Cornell is certainly one of those people!

The story of his life is very peculiar. He was born into a wealthy textile merchant family in the earlier 1900s that struggled after the death of the patriarch of the family and the Great Depression. He spent most of his life inside his home in a working class area of Flushing in Queens, NY taking care of his mother and his handicapped brother. He was very shy and wary of strangers, this kept him inside his home for most of his life.

Although Cornell is best known for his assemblages created from found objects, he did create collages and experimental film. His most famous is called Rose Hobart, created from already existing film stock he spliced together that he found in New Jersey warehouses. Cornell projected the video through blue glass to give it a very dreamlike sequence. When he screened his film, in 1936 at the Julien Levy Gallery during the Surrealist exhibition in New York, apparently he was scolded by Salvador Dali who claimed to have the same idea in a dream, which traumatized Cornell and prevented him from screening publicly again.

Here is the first 10 minutes of the film, which is very interesting..if you have a few minutes to check it out. I don't know much about film theory, or experimental film, but I love seeing the quality of the film, you can really tell it is a physical media, and not digital like we see today, and of course how the actors are dressed and their expressions, and that the whole thing has a soundtrack, because it would have been silent. Very lovely.

I can't seem to find much out there for Joseph Cornell, so I ordered a big 'ol book, and I hope to dig a bit deeper into this guy. I'm very excited I found him!

1 comment:

Jeff Roberts said...