Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Ever heard of Joseph Cornell? He was an American artist and sculptor, also filmmaker, born in December (1903) and died in December (1972). Joseph Cornell and I have a few things in common: he loved assembling bits and pieces of things into sometimes surprising collections. He liked the “evocation of nostalgia,” and though he admired the work of Surrealists like Max Ernst and Rene Magritte (as I do, in a certain way), he said he only wished to make “white magic” with his art and not “black magic.” Cornell loved birds, starlets, and certain great dancers of 19th century ballet. He was shy and sensitive to the poetic quality of dreams. His brother was born with cerebral palsy, and Cornell took care of his brother until his brother died in 1965. Towards the end of his career his art was widely recognized, and some admirers sought him out. One of them contacted his sister and their efforts kept his work from being lost.

I thought of Joseph Cornell again when I came across The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin’s blog site, and read about her love of book-making and her current project of making a book, inspired by J.M. Barrie’s Boy Castaways. This led to a link to Sloane Crosley’s blog site about her book, I Was Told There’d Be Cake. She’s an uncommon personality too, funny, quirky (as “they” say), and loves to “assemblage” too. What great fun it is to follow these streams of interest in a mind. Anyone coming across mine may visit theirs in the same way I’ve followed this trail of crumbs, or lit-up stars to make a constellation. This is another way I appreciate what memory means to a mind. When I wrote my book, Sensing Infinity: Finding the Love of My Life, it was a collection of sorts to me, a compilation of experiences, thoughts, images that had to be assembled together in juxtaposition that reflected the balancing of my own sensory exploration over and through time. I’m not so good with glue. These are my little window-boxes made of words, window-views, rooms with views, plexi-glass, sculpture, aerial flights, deep dives complete with heavy metal, shiny brass locks and chains, seaweed, and the sparkle of salt and sand on skin, seashells half-buried and sneaking a peek as the tides turn them. As Magritte wrote, Without inspiration thought becomes mechanical, and Spiritual Philosophy was and is my invitation to turn what was my "dark matter," or "black magic" into "white magic." There is nothing to fear - even that little flutter of surprise that can come from an adrenalin rush when you almost run your car off of the road and gravel sprays from your wheels is a cellular revival that invites so much more.

“Nuptials. Sounds like something you get a case of. See: I felt a case of the nuptials coming on so I had a full-body fiancĂ©.”
“In third grade I had to make a diorama about the Inuit. I showed up to school with a Plexiglas case that housed an igloo made from nail-filed sugar cubes and a battery-powered fan that created dry ice. It was difficult to claim I had created a functioning arctic biosphere on my own, given that long division was a struggle.” Sloane C

Rene Magritte, from Secret Affinities, Institute for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, 1976.

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