Joseph Cornell is well known for the oneiric quality of his art and films. Many have tried, often in vain, to put into words the strange power of his boxes--toy-like constructions whose playfulness and humor are anchored in a profound melancholy and loneliness. “Slot machines of visions,” said Octavio Paz. Cornell himself is said to have enjoyed children's responses to his work; perhaps because nothing prepares one better for viewing a Cornell box than having an unbiased mind.
Catherine Corman has combed through the voluminous diaries that Cornell kept throughout his life, now in the care of the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, in search of the artist's own dreams. What she found are brief flashes of images, and short, enigmatic narratives of illumination--the verbal equivalent of Cornell boxes.
In 1993, Mary Ann Caws edited a large portion of Cornell's diaries for publication by Thames & Hudson, an invaluable sourcebook for Cornell studies. This new, shorter volume is a poetic addition to that literature, equally indispensible to those interested in Cornell as it contains previously unpublished writings, but also because it is as intriguing and mysterious to the uninitiated as the magical boxes themselves.