Here's an excerpt from an article in The Guardian
Joseph Cornell: how the reclusive artist conquered the art world - from his mum's basement
Thinking inside the box: romantic, obsessive and shy, Cornell never moved out of his mother’s house, yet his strange, exquisite art brought him fame and friendships with Duchamp, Dalí and Warhol
The box is the central metaphor of Joseph Cornell's life, just as it is the signature element of his exquisite and disturbing body of work, his factory of dreams. He made boxes to keep wonders in: small wooden boxes that he built in the basement beneath the small wooden house he shared with his mother and disabled younger brother, the two fixed stars of his existence.
As a boy, he saw Houdini perform in New York City, escaping from locked cabinets, wreathed in chains. In his own artwork, which he didn’t begin until he was almost 30, he made obsessive, ingenious versions of the same story: a multitude of found objects representing expansiveness and flight, penned inside glass-fronted cases. Ballet dancers, birds, maps, aviators, stars of screen and sky, at once cherished, fetishised and imprisoned.
The same tension between freedom and constriction ran right through Cornell’s own life. A pioneer of assemblage art, collector, autodidact, Christian Scientist, pastry-lover, experimental film-maker, balletomane and self-declared white magician, he roved freely through the fields of the mind while inhabiting a personal life of extraordinarily narrow limits. He never married or moved out of his mother’s house in Queens and rarely voyaged further than a subway ride into Manhattan, despite being besotted with the idea of foreign travel and particularly with France.
TO read the full article (and support quality journalism), click here