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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Joseph Cornell

Mix Master
About Mr.B

Joseph Cornell: December 24,1903-December 29,1972...United States

"Shadow boxes become poetic theaters or settings wherein are metamorphosed the element of a childhood pastime."
~Joseph Cornell

One of the first artists to explore the ideas of instillation, environment, and sight, was the painfully shy artist, Joseph Cornell. He was a life-long New Yorker who saw his share of hard times. After high school he helpd his dad in his dry goods store. After his dad’s death, his mother moved to Queens where she supported her four children, including an son with cerebral palsy. Although they struggled, Cornell was determined to get an education. With a limited formal training from Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, he began working as a textile designer. He was using his money to begin collecting small and unique things. He amassed a huge collection of books, movies, graphic arts works, souvenirs, photos, records, and lots of other stuff. By the early 1930s, he gets involved with the surrealist movement. It was at this time that he begins to place some of his collected things into wood boxes that were fitted with glass fronts. These works became known as assemblages. These assemblages revolved around the ideas of birds, travel, photography, music, art history, and/or astronomy. These intimate installations of his artifacts became his calling card. It has been claimed that he began his assemblages to entertain his handicapped brother who he was caring for. A private man, Cornell refused to collaborate with his fellow artists and did not exclusively show his art with any one art click. Through Julian Levy, he begins to show his art with the surrealists in 1932. His was greatly influenced by Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters, and Marcel Duchamp although he never worked directly with anyone.

Beyond his more known assemblage work, Cornell was also known for his collages. These relatively small works were created from found images that were cut apart, rearranged into a new composition and attached permanently for public display.

Living as an isolated artist, Cornell did not know his popularity. He died at his home in Flashing, New York.

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063