Joseph Cornell was an artist whose work really exemplified the saying that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Cornell lived from 1903 to 1972 mostly in New York City. He lived his early life in Nyack, New York with his two sisters and one brother who suffered from cerebral palsy. When he grew up, he moved to New York City and led a humble life mostly due to poverty and spent a great deal of his time taking care of his disabled brother. He was never a particularly social man which allowed him to focus on his artwork.
Cornell is known as being one of the pioneers of installation art. However, his work was not as out of the box as a lot of the contemporary installation art is today, but rather in a box. Cornell loved to collect little trinkets and such. His installations were constructed out of these “found objects” that were then compiled in shadow boxes to evoke an emotion or idea. Some of his work such as his well known piece, The Medici Slot Machine requires the viewer to interact with the piece by handling it. Cornell also created paintings and surrealist short films along with his boxed installations. His boxed masterpieces serve as examples of the principles of found objects and collage assemblage which is what allows Cornell to be regarded as a pioneer in the art world.
The artwork of Joseph Cornell may parallel the saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” but also transcends it because the “treasures” that he created allowed him to become part of modernist history. In a way, Cornell himself serves as a parallel by transcending a poverty stricken life by becoming a treasured artist.
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If you would like to learn more about Joseph Cornell and his artwork, come to the Joseph Cornell and Your Museum of Ephemera All-Day Seminar and Studio Workshop where you can get the first-hand experience of creating your very own Cornell inspired boxed installation.
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