Joseph Cornell’s Sense of Art and Wonder

 Sun. Aug. 19

Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) created several thousand pieces of art over the course of his career, which took off in the early 1930s. About 180 of those are up at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. It wraps up today, Sunday August 19. See it! It’s astonishing in breadth, detail and scope. Cornell, who lived and worked in Flushing, NY, is primarily a sculptor – he loved building boxes and putting curious items in them, sometimes wiring them for sound and lights – but the self-taught artist also worked in film, created collages, and was influenced by math and astronomy.
Lynda Hartigan, chief curator at Peabody Essex Museum and of this show called “Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination,” has been studying Cornell off-and-on for 30 years, ever since she was a graduate school intern. She calls it a “right place and right time” situation, being identified by a museum curator as “a prospect.”
Putting together this exhibit was both “a lot of hard work and a labor of love,” says Hartigan. (In photo: Cornell’s Penny Arcade Lauren Bacall.) Cornell has been called a surrealist – understandably – but Hartigan says, “He very strongly felt art was a form of communication. That set him apart during his time frame. He was of the generation where many artists got caught up in art for arts sake. He did not get caught up in that. He was making art to uplift.” Cornell had his first one-man show in 1932; by 1950, says Hartigan, he was making a living. He was not rich, but he no longer had to do a day job.


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