Joseph would let the neighborhood kids come in and look around. Hewantedthe kids to touch them. He encouraged them. “See … watch how when I drop the marble in this little hole … watch where it goes ….” He would drop the marble, and look on, pleased to the tips of his toes at the googly-eyed look of amazement on the child’s face. He would even let the kidsborrowsome of the boxes, if they really wanted to. Of course this probably horrified the gallery owners who showed his work. Like: That “toy” costs $200,000!!! Cornell wasn’t an idiot savante – he was an artist and he knew that what he created was art – but still, he loved to see little kids, especially, play with them. One little girl was particularly taken with one of the boxes, so he let her take it home with her. The next day she brought it back. He said, “So soon?” She said, “Yeah. I’m done with it now.”
Isn’t that so perfect. She had done what she needed to do with the box. Maybe she played with it for a good 5 hours straight, hiding in her room with a flashlight late at night … and so she was “done with it” after that.
A beautiful thing. Cornell absolutelylovedthat response – and of all of the critical raves he got from his peers – that one was the one he held most dear.
“I’m done with it now.”
His dying words were “I wish I hadn’t been so reserved.”
Joseph Cornell (1903 - 1972)