My Artist Heroes series is a collections of collage boxes inspired by key artists who have creatively influenced Thomas Mann over the years.
Artist Hero Series Box with Removeable Brooch - Joseph CORNELL
Well, I’ve already detailed the effect that Josephs work had on me after discovering it during that strange voyage through the underground tunnels of Cornell University. But it all goes a bit deeper than that, and in some cases gets a little weird. But that weirdness evidences itself in the homage box in this exhibition.
November 1980-January 1981
In the winter of 1980 the Museum of Modern Art mounted a retrospective exhibition of Joseph’s work. It ran from November of that year through January of the following. I went 6 times from my home in the Poconos just an hour and a half from New York. On one occasion I went everyday for three days. On one of those days I went in a psychedelic thrall. I studied every detail of every piece in the show. 200 constructions, 75 collages. I wanted to get into his head. See what he saw as he conceived of and built those boxes. I’d scrutinize where and how he nailed things together, did he use glue? If so, when and why. You see, in metal world we eschew glue. And even now when I make similar constructions I use glue only as a last resort and hope that, if it is used, it will be invisible. This was total immersion and it changed me in ways that evidence themselves every day as I conceive, design, and plan whatever it is I am making.
Joseph died in 1972, not long after I discovered his work at Cornell. Cornell at Cornell....I will always remember this experience till the day I die. In the late 70s I was off to do a crafts fair in Connecticut and would be driving there through New York, specifically the across the Cross Bronx Expressway and nearby Queens. I was therefore on a pilgrimage. I found and drove to Joseph’s house on Utopia Parkway. He didn’t live there anymore, he was dead and gone. But I had to see where he did the work. I walked around the block of his house, and, while I knew very well that other people lived there, I walked down that famous driveway to the garage where I knew it had all taken place. I slept in my van in front of that house that night and left for the show in Connecticut in the morning feeling that I had completed the mission of being inspired by this fabulous funny character who made boxes of art. I could go on with my own work now and leave the obsession of interest in him go.