At various times in the past I’ve written about my fascination with the work of Joseph Cornell and my experiences with his works. Last night I finished the big collection of his work, Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay…Eterniday, and as always came away both inspired and humbled by the work.
And saddened. William Gibson wrote in Count Zero that the Cornell-manque boxes encountered by the protagonist evoked “impossible distances, loss and yearning,” and Gibson wrote that he sensed autism behind Cornell’s obsessive junk-shop searchings.
I think the truth is closer than that. Cornell’s series of parrots caged in decaying European hotels rings sad when you know he spent his entire adult life in his house in Queens, taking care of his mother and brother. Imprisoned? By choice, if so. But still, looking at the empty bird cage and cut wire of Toward the Blue Peninsula, with its open window in the back of the box, one wishes that Cornell, too, had let himself fly the coop.