Joseph Cornell and Astronomy provides an in-depth look at one artist's intense fascination with the science of astronomy. Joseph Cornell (1903-72) has often been viewed as a recluse, isolated in his home on Utopia Parkway, lost in the fairy tales and charming objects of his collages and assemblage boxes. Less commonly known has been Cornell's vested and serious interest in the history of astronomy and the cutting-edge discoveries made during his own lifetime. An avid reader, he amassed a library of books and articles about science and astronomy, and his reflections about these subjects had a direct impact on his art.
This book explores why astronomy captivated Cornell, and considers hundreds of his works--found-footage films, three-dimensional space-object boxes, enigmatic collages, and cosmic ephemera--that contain references to astronomical phenomena. Kirsten Hoving considers Cornell's enormous collection of astronomy materials, ranging from eighteenth-century books to recent works; newspaper and magazine articles that Cornell clipped and sorted; and diary entries of his observations while stargazing in his backyard. She examines how Cornell explored many dimensions of astronomy through his identities as a Christian Scientist and surrealist artist.
Unfolding Cornell's work with depth and breadth, Joseph Cornell and Astronomy offers a convincing and original appreciation of this intriguing American artist.
"Figures are plentiful, and reproductions of Cornell's work are crisp and colorful; combined with Hoving's deep research and enthusiasm, this a surprisingly lively read, full of insight into Cornell as well as the intersection of art and science."--Publishers Weekly
"Kirsten Hoving's Joseph Cornell and Astronomy: A Case for the Stars offers a remarkable new perspective on an essential American master, revealing the scientific seriousness that supported Cornell's poetic fancies."--Jed Perl, The New Republic
"Mesmerizing. . . . Hoving does something ambitious and difficult: she identifies one important thread of his creative process and uses it to help us understand Cornell's art. . . . With its high-quality production and beautiful and wide-ranging illustrations, this book is extremely absorbing."--Pedro Ferreira, Nature
"In this impeccably researched and lucidly written book, Hoving adds to the growing new scholarship that rejects stereotypes of a 'childlike' Cornell, instead revealing an artist engaged with the world. Hoving traces the sources of myriad images and ideas that fueled the artist's lifelong fascination with all things celestial. . . . Her book's analytical strengths are based on extensive research in the Cornell archives and a keen eye for telling details. Cornell emerges as a man of his times, one for whom art and science enriched one another."--E. Housefield, Choice
"[T]his book will significantly change the way Cornell's works are examined--depicting him as a scientist as much as a dreamer--and is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding literature on the artist."--James Boaden, Burlington Magazine
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
Preface and Acknowledgments xvii
CHAPTER I: Cross-Indexing the Cosmos 1
CHAPTER II: The Celestial Science of Soap 27
CHAPTER III: Movie Stars 57
CHAPTER IV: Astronomia Fantastica 89
CHAPTER V: Observatories 120
CHAPTER VI: The Science of the Stars 158
CHAPTER VII: The Twilight Zone 202
Selected Bibliography 289