Thinking Inside the Box

Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) was a self-trained New York artist who made masterpieces from wood, photos, feathers, cut up words, string, glass bottles, blocks, and lots of other objects he found. He is best known for his boxes and collages, some of which we examined as a class today (see our annotations below). Cornell was a collector at heart – a collectors of things and of ideas.

“By collecting and carefully juxtaposing found objects in small, glass-front boxes, Cornell created visual poems in which surface, form, texture, and light play together. Using things we can see, Cornell made boxes about things we cannot see: ideas, memories, fantasies, and dreams. He was a kind of magician, turning everyday objects into mysterious treasures.” (from

Our next project will be to create Cornell-inspired boxes that reflect on the connective threads between E.B. White’s three novels for children: Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swan. We will be collecting  various trinkets, words, artwork, and photos and carefully arranging it all into “visual poetry” that reflects on White’s writing. We will draw upon the way Cornell used layers, levels, and sections to deliver details and focus on communicating BIG ideas using small things.

For more information about Joseph Cornell, check out these two websites:

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