Thursday, August 09, 2007

Joseph Cornell Accordion Book

Buddha Accordion

Last week I went to see a wonderful exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum called Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination. While best known for his boxes, Joseph Cornell also made collages, films, and a few books. There was one book that would fit into the category of altered book, several portfolio style boxes, and one accordion book.

His work combines found objects and images in surprising ways. I liked one of the descriptive tags so much I copied it. "In the late 1930's a chance encounter with caged tropical birds displayed against a pet shop's stark white walls made such a 'dazzling' impression that Cornell believed it changed his way of seeing 'the simplicity of magic' in the everyday." Our project for the month is an accordion book where we can express the "simplicity of magic" of the everyday in our lives.

Making the Book
You will need two long pieces of sturdy paper or cover stock or the back panel of a brown grocery bag cut in half vertically. I used the front panel of a large cereal box cut in half vertically. It was a little awkward to fold but made an accordion that stood up well for display.

This accordion will have eight pages. Follow the directions for making the accordion. Trim off the tab at the end. You are ready to add your collage images. Joseph Cornell used images of the things that he loved, including birds, ballerinas, and movie stars. Collect images of things you care about- flowers, musicians, baseball players, birds, and make your own book. Magazines and catalogs are good sources of imagery.


Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination
The Peabody Essex Museum has an excellent interactive online companion to the exhibition.

Guardian article by Jonathan Safran Foer, editor of A Convergence of Birds, original fiction and poetry inspired by the work of Joseph Cornell,,1778945,00.html

Straightforward presentations of images of Joseph Cornells' collages and boxes

Smithsonian Archives of American Art
Collections Online: Joseph Cornell
View some of his papers including diaries, letters, art works, and ephemera.

Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Information about Joseph Cornell and one of Soap Bubble Set boxes with suggestions for an activity for children

in good spirit Blog
More reflections on the Joseph Cornell exhibit and Edward Hopper at the MFA in Boston are on my art blog, ingoodspirit. Both exhibits close on August 19.

Adapted from the August 2007 issue of Making Books Monthly
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