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WCMA Blog

More Kidspace: Artistic Curiosity Questions

Since our last blog post, we have had lots of visitors leave us wonderful and thoughtful questions about the two Joseph Cornell pieces in the Kidspace show.

Joseph Cornell, (American, 1903-1972), View at Ostend, c. 1965, mixed media collage. Gift of Susan W. Paine in honor of Stephen D. Paine, Class of 1954. (M.2008.22) © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY_x400

Many of our visitors have been interested in the man in Cornell’s “View at Ostend” and have wondered about what the man is looking at, who he is, and where he is standing. Some visitors have guessed that he might be on a hill, in the sky, standing near a barn, or perhaps looking at the ocean or a city.

One visitor recently asked: Is the man in the past or the future?

What do you think?

Joseph Cornell, (American, 1903-1972), Untitled, mid 20th century, wood, glass, metal, and paper. Gift of Mrs. John A. Benton. (73.20) © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY_x400

Another visitor posted a question about the Joseph Cornell shadow box, asking, “What is the significance of the sun and the cat?”

Cornell often used symbolism in his work. Many of the objects or images he included in his collages and shadow boxes were objects that Cornell found in books or magazines. Cornell’s work can be very mysterious and it’s impossible to know the exact meanings behind the images that he included, but we can try to imagine the kinds of things he was interested in representing through his art.

Many of the symbols in Cornell’s works evoke memories of his childhood. The image of the costumed cat in the shadow box is likely an illustration from the children’s story “Puss in Boots.” Cornell used found images that he sourced from old books and magazines and the cat in the shadow box is likely an example of one of Cornell’s found pictures. In this shadow box, he has cut out the image so that only the top of the cat’s body is visible. Why do you think he did that? In particular, Cornell often used images of animals in his art. Butterflies and parrots frequently appear in his shadow boxes.

Cornell also included many images of the sun, moon, stars, and planets in his work. He was very interested in science, particularly astronomy and space exploration. He was also intrigued by the history of celestial navigation, which was used by sailors to find their way when traveling on the sea. He thought of these images as a metaphor for the movement through time and for connections to the spiritual realm. What kinds of things do you associate with images of the sun?

Stay tuned for more questions and answers from the Kidspace: Artistic Curiosity exhibition soon!

Nina Pelaez
WCMA education intern and MA student in the History of Art, Class of 2014

Above images:

Joseph Cornell, (American, 1903-1972), View at Ostend, c. 1965, mixed media collage. Gift of Susan W. Paine in honor of Stephen D. Paine, Class of 1954. (M.2008.22) © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Joseph Cornell, (American, 1903-1972), Untitled, mid 20th century, wood, glass, metal, and paper. Gift of Mrs. John A. Benton. (73.20) © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

 

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