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Joseph Cornell letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson and other papers, 1963-1994, undated

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Cornell (Joseph) Letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson and other papers

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection includes letters from the American collage and assemblage artist Joseph Cornell to one of his assistants, Susanna De Maria Wilson; a small quantity of printed ephemera and notes related to the screenings of films drawn from Cornell's personal collection; and a few letters and notes by others.

Series I. consists of thirty-three letters by Cornell, which document diverse aspects of his working relationship with De Maria Wilson. In terms of aesthetic composition, the pieces of mail are generally strongly visual in their orientation, and some envelopes even seem to have had stamps affixed with care and for deliberate effect. Furthermore, Cornell adapted the collage and assemblage technique to the sequential mode of reading in the epistolary format, so that the outer envelopes frequently contain multiple envelopes that are then wrapped in tissue paper, stitched or clipped together. Often, these items are collaged with stamps, seals, foil stickers, and small photographs. Several small objects are enclosed with the letters: a bird call whistle, pressed grass, a toy plastic mirror, a piece of perforated metal, and rusty nails. Cornell's method of collage and assemblage thus produces a layered experience of reading and viewing. As a group, the letters exist as much as a collection of work on paper or mail art as they are archival documents.

Included with this series is the painted wood box in which De Maria Wilson stored Cornell's letters at her home. Cornell saw the box in a Manhattan store and asked DeMaria Wilson to purchase it with money he gave her.

Series II. includes a small group of printed ephemera and notes related to the historic 1963 screenings of films drawn from Cornell's personal collection, held at 9 Great Jones Street, the space run by Walter De Maria and Robert Whitman; and a few letters by others written after Cornell's death.

Arrangement

Arranged in two series:
Series I. Joseph Cornell letters to Susanna De Maria Wilson, 1963-1968, undated;
Series II. Other papers, 1963-1994, undated.




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