Andromeda Hotel: The art of Joseph Cornell


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A safe haven, a nook, a place out of sight in which to snuggle. Every dreamer crawls into his corner. Like an escapee, he thinks only of hiding and disappearing. In every cranny in the world someone has burrowed to seek solace. The pursuers enter the hotel room and there is no one there. The one they are looking for hasn’t been born yet, or he has been dead for a hundred years. The sunlight falling through the open window knows that. Soon they’re gone and the room is again empty like the morning sky. Within that single instant, “Centuries of June,” as Emily Dickinson said. — Charles Simic, “Centuries of June,” Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell A devoted collector and archivist, Joseph Cornell (l903-l972) had an encyclopedic knowledge of art, science, the cinema, ballet, literature, theatre, music, and history. All of these interests came together in the fantastic assemblages he produced between the 1930s and the l960s. By combining bits and pieces from nature, popular culture, and mass media and placing them in small boxes (like so many specimens on display), Cornell not only preserved almost forgotten objects and fading icons but gave them new life. In his work the anonymity of the mass produced becomes personal and the commonplace is made magical. It captures a child’s sense of wonder. As viewers look into Cornell’s small, intimate, poetic, and theatrical “dioramas,” they experience the enchantment and mystery of the everyday. He venerates, commemorates, and memorializes natural and cultural objects in order to, in his own words, “transcend … the dust heap & ruthlessness of time.” [1] Many of Cornell’s quiet yet emotionally charged works look like cherished souvenirs, permeated by a sense of wistful longing, muted joy, and poignant loss. His contradictory expressions ­ he was a fervent romantic and urgent realist ­ come out of his heightened sense of..

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