For years, I have been interested in shadow box art. (Please note that I said art and not display. They are two different things in my book. Though, sometimes, a display unintentionally becomes art.) Maybe it came from the dioramas made in grade school; maybe from my love of collecting odd knick-knacks and bits of visual art that I found fascinating. Who knows?

As I progressed to college, Joseph Cornell entered my vision. He was a curious, quiet man, a bachelor, who lived with his mother, and created wondrous assemblages, like those I dream of creating. His boxes remind me of finding treasures hidden away in attics, antique stores and junk shops. They are strong, yet quaint.

A few of my graduation year projects involved using shadow boxes and boxes of all sorts, but in a less decorative or narrative style than Cornell’s. I focused on lighted triptychs and “finding hidden pasts”, using words and images in a different manner than he did. There was a simple message that I wanted to express and I believed too many visual segues would distract from that message.

Lately, though, my interest in these little assemblages has been reignited. Each a seemingly-homegrown object d’art – layers upon layers to ponder and sometimes, it would appear, just capricious fairy tales, per se – created with such detail and devotion. Ahh, the patience. Do I have the patience, I wonder? Yes, I am tenacious, but patient…?

I get easily distracted from one project to another. *Oh, look, a squirrel!* There are so many things that I want to try and do, the list is endless; so much to create…read…experience. Do I have the patience required to sit down and pull the pieces together and lay them out, assemble them and finish the “labor of love” without the piece looking thrown together? Will I just set it down for “later” and never return to it until years later, if ever? Maybe, I am still that little girl that would hurriedly finish a paint by numbers project, just to get it done, bored with it already. Or, am I still the little girl that could sit for hours, creating and hand-sewing outfits for her dolls? That is my challenge to myself. We shall see.

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…and just because we all appreciate old photographs:
Joseph Cornell Family in his Youth with His Family

Want to Learn more about Joseph Cornell. recycled art and assemblage?:

“Shadow boxes become poetic theaters or settings wherein are metamorphosed the element of a childhood pastime.” – Joseph Cornell’

Richard Haymes

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