Joseph Cornell was an American artist known for creating complex and diverse works by mingling fantasy and reality. His art was centered around the notion of travel, despite rarely leaving New York State during his lifetime. One of his most notable installations is Toward The Blue Peninsula, created between 1951-52 and dedicated to the beloved poet Emily Dickinson.
The installation incorporates Dickinson’s poetry in small collages on boxes set inside a larger box surrounded by blue glass marbles. The piece explores themes such as nostalgia, memory, and mystery through the integration of found objects like seashells, maps, and feathers arranged in intricate narrative dioramas. Toward The Blue Peninsula is typical of Cornell’s work that uses found objects to create highly symbolic pieces with a hint of surrealism.
Cornell’s artwork has been influential in the Surrealist and Assemblage movements due to his unique approach to incorporating everyday items into art pieces with highly personal meanings. Today, Cornell’s career is celebrated in a full survey at the Peabody Essex exhibition that features over 200 of his works from all periods throughout his life. Through this exhibition we can understand how an artist like Joseph Cornell changed ideas about what could be considered “art” as well as contributed significantly to today’s contemporary art discourse.*