Art AV Club: Joseph Cornell

In this Art AV Club we look at the works of Joseph Cornell, how he collected printed materials, and created a genre of art.

It’s the return of Art AV Club! Welcome! If you’ve never seen Art AV Club, it came about when I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole watching videos about Cy Twombly. Videos of artists talking about their work or art historians talking about artists’ work is a magical thing that we are so lucky to have access to FOR FREE on the internet. I particularly like to examine artists whose work moves me and how my work intersects with theirs. Join me for this week’s Art AV Club: Joseph Cornell.


I love Joseph Cornell’s boxes. I first encountered them at the Art Institute of Chicago. There’s something about his juxtaposition of found objects that is enchanting. While he never considered himself either an artist or a surrealist, art history regards him as both.

Travel and imagination

His love of printed materials and the way he collected them, speak to me as one who feels pretty obsessed with every box label and piece of junk mail.

“The exploring that became creative”

A look into some of the symbolism in Cornell’s “Soap Bubble Set.”

“Collage = Life”

I identify with Cornell’s collecting tendencies. I love paper. Always have. I remember clutching notepads to my chest as a child thinking about the possibilities inherent in those blank pages. I wrote stories and drew things or cut up printed materials or magazines and collaged them. All in an attempt to synthesize and make some meaning of what I was seeing and experiencing. Nothing has changed.


Collage as storytelling

The storytelling inherent in collage has always resonated with me. My artist statement is a testament to what collage means to me:

“I’ve been obsessed with gluing things together since I got my first bottle of Elmer’s glue at five years old. I have a deep love of paper and it doesn’t matter if it’s old book pages, product packaging, specialty artist papers, or my own painted papers. I enjoy using all of it in my mixed media work. What challenges me is seeing if I can take paper, a universal, utilitarian item; add other medias like paint, ink, graphite, fabric, or yarn; and turn it into something beautiful, meaningful, and powerful. I am interested in exploring the tension between traditional hand crafts and abstract mixed media art. I think my calling as an artist is to explore that tension and invite us all to imagine a more expansive world.”

Go exploring on your own

I hope you enjoyed this Art AV Club. If you want to see more of his work, the Art Institute of Chicago link at the top has more than 40 of his works for you to look at. Also check out the children’s picture book “The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell” by Candace Fleming. I found it at my local library and read it several times. I loved getting to know Cornell better through this Art AV Club and I hope you did as well.

If you have other artists who you’d like to know more about, share them with me so I can include them in Art AV Club.