I have always collected natural artifacts, from the moment I discovered pockets as a toddler to just this past weekend when I added a fist full of acorns from Georgia to my dad's old tool box turned cabinet of curiosities. I think as a result I have always found Joseph Cornell's work interesting in part at least because he too was a collector. I imagine his little basement studio filled to the brim with his curiosites and notes on life, celebrities and nature, and oh I wish I could poke around a bit.
Someone brought to my attention that the SFMOMA is having an exhibit of Joseph Cornell's work. Unfortunately it's much too far away to visit, and I am rather disappointed about it, but to tide me over while I mope, they have a great (if slightly slow) interactive website for the show! I am very excited to be able to see some of one of his early altered books. Check it out here. If you wish to see the book, go to the site and click on the bottles and then on the orange.
The site mentions the concept of curiosity cabinets as well:
From the 1500's to the 1700's, European royalty and affluent individuals often gathered an array of art, illustrated texts and maps, coins, scientific devices and natural specimens to create"cabinets of curiosities." Dense arrangements in drawers, chests, and glass fronted cases in private chambers suggested a collector's highly personal view of the cosmos in miniature.
How does one define the "highly personal view of the cosmos" as evidenced by collections? What do my collections say about me? At certain times in my life when I feel most lost, I attempt to find my bearings through the impossible and somewhat ridiculous task of mapping out my life. Elaborate lists, statements and mind maps fill pages and pages. I mine sketchbooks and childhood memories. Searching. Where is the thread? What are the themes? How am I, I? Eventually the chatter exhausts me and I stop. Usually I pull valuable reminders from it, but mostly it is overwhelming. Later I laugh at myself. "Personal view of the cosmos" is such a neat and tidy phrase. Yet the deeper one looks a tangled mess it becomes. When I am not looking to lists and maps to find my center or the way forward, I find a partial maps sit on my shelves in in my drawers, in the form on my little collections of objects. If I sit still and admire them they reveal themselves to me such quiet little whispers I barely hear and yet they speak, softly, calming, here listening isn't so tiresome.