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Joseph Cornell letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson and other papers.

Cornell, Joseph, artist, correspondent.

Available at Special Collections  SPECIAL COLLECTIONS - CONTACT REFERENCE  (2014.M.30 )()

  • Title:
    Joseph Cornell letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson and other papers.
  • Author/Creator: Cornell, Joseph, artist, correspondent.
  • Creation Date: 1963-1994
  • Biographical/Historical Note: The American artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) was a pioneer and celebrated exponent of collage and assemblage art. He is best known for assemblages made of objects found in bookshops and thrift stores and arranged eclectically in simple shadow boxes, usually fronted with a glass pane. He also created flat collaged works and experimented with film.
  • Arrangement: Arranged in two series: Series I. Joseph Cornell letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson, 1963-1968, undated. Series II. Other papers, 1963-1994, undated.
  • Physical Desc.: 3 boxes (2.17 linear feet).
  • Summary: The collection includes letters from the American collage and assemblage artist Joseph Cornell to one of his assistants, Susanna De Maria Wilson; a small group of printed ephemera and notes related to the screenings of films drawn from Cornell's personal collection; and a few letters and notes by others.
    Series I. includes thirty-three letters sent by Cornell from his house in Flushing, Queens to Susanna De Maria Wilson at her various addresses in New York City. The letters document diverse aspects of Cornell's working relationship with De Maria Wilson, who was given the task of helping to acquire source material for Cornell's collage and assemblage work. The letters frequently contain directions on where to go, guidance as to what kind of imagery particularly appealed to him, and even samples of images. Sometimes the letters are purely social in purpose, as in an Easter card sent on 13 April 1963, or a postcard dated 15 April 1964, thanking her for perfumes. Cornell also shared insight into various aspects of his thought and collage processes. For instance, in a letter dated 28 March 1963, Cornell discusses the mystery of sylphs and sensuality, and in a letter from the following month, he wrote a lengthy note discussing three dreams (5 April 1963). Throughout, the writing is typical of the artist's allusive and laconic style, but there are also surprising moments of humor, as in the joke card sent on 23 May 1964. In terms of aesthetic composition, the letters are generally strongly visual in their orientation, and some envelopes even seem to have had stamps affixed with care and for deliberate effect. Furthermore, Cornell adapted the collage and assemblage technique to the sequential mode of reading in the epistolary format, so that the envelopes frequently contain multiple envelopes within, wrapped in tissue paper, stiched or clipped together. Frequently, these items are collaged with stamps, seals, foil stickers, and small photographs. Several small objects are included: a bird call whistle, pressed grasses, a plastic toy mirror, a piece of perforated metal and rusty nails. Cornell's method of collage and assemblage produces a layered experience of reading and viewing in result of which, as a group, the letters exist as much as a collection of work on paper or mail art by Cornell as they are archival documents.
    Series II. includes a small group of printed ephemera and notes related to four of the historic 1963 screenings of films drawn from Cornell's personal collection, held at 9 Great Jones Street in New York City, the space run by Walter De Maria and Robert Whitman. These documents provide information about the screenings, and also about who was in attendance. Also included are a few letters by others written after Cornell's death.
  • Language: English
  • Notes: De Maria Wilson kept the letters in a painted wood box that Cornell saw in a downtown Manhattan store and that she purchased with money Cornell gave her; the box is included with the letters.
  • Form/Genre: Collages -- United States -- 20th century
    Mail art -- United States -- 20th century
    Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 20th century
  • Subjects: Cornell, Joseph, -- Correspondence De Maria Wilson, Susanna, -- Correspondence Artists -- United States -- Correspondence Assemblage (Art)
  • ID/Accession Number: 2014.M.30
  • Access/Rights: Originals restricted. Digital surrogates available for use by qualified researchers.
  • OCLC Record Number: 893437118
  • Source: GRI Library Catalog

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