|The amazing 17th-century Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher's |
magnetic divination devices at the MJT.
Via Running Wolf Productions.
|The front of the Museum. Via Markasaurus.|
|Don't pretend like you don't know what this is. Of course |
Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs can hang out on a needle.
Dwarfs are small, right? By microminiaturist Hagop
Sandaldjian, via the MJT website page about his work.
|The Conversion of St. Eustace at Mentorella, a diorama |
illustrating some of Kircher's fascinations. Depending on how
you look, at it, the glowing symbols appear and disappear.
The Museum is the brainchild (in the sense, actually, of being a physical manifestation of the inner workings of the mind) of a very cool, very peculiar dude named David Wilson. (He's the subject of a fascinating book called Mr Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, and you can read a nifty interview with him, too.) I was lucky enough to meet him in 2005, but given that I was 16 at the time, even my total paralyzing enthusiasm for the Museum wasn't enough for me to ask him any really good questions or remember much other than awe about the encounter. Sorry. You should probably just go visit. Oh, and "Jurassic Technology"? What does that mean, anyway? Ah, hm, well, I could tell you, but that would necessitate me having any fucking clue. Which I don't. Just go with it.
Like the MJT (and, um, me), Joseph Cornell was a man for whom the cabinet of curiosity was a preoccupying and animating force. He was a kind of lonely guy, born in 1903, who lived most of his life in a house on Utopia Parkway, which is a name that could mess up anyone. He was poor, wary of strangers, and pretty much self-taught, and if you ask me, when poor lonely dudes (or gals) with no formal artistic training make spectacularly cool & beautiful things, it increases the awesomeness of said things by an order of magnitude. You can research him in plenty of places; as I see it, my job is to gush, not provide you information you can darn well get on Wikipedia. Listen. This is a guy who fell in love with Lauren Bacall and a bunch of ballerinas, who loved the Transcendentalists & the Symbolists, who made cabinets full of evocative collages of bottles and birds. If I'm not physically related, I certainly consider him spiritual kin (as I do almost anyone who bases a creative practice on a combination of ideas from woodsy wonderland dudes like Thoreau on the one hand and mystic dream painters like Odilon Redon on the other.) He was wandering around New York around the same time as another of my favorite people in the universe, Henry Miller, who picked up scraps of peculiar encounters the same way Cornell picked up odds and ends from bookshops and thrift stores. He wasn't especially into garbage, though; he liked bits of forgotten poetry, old fragments of lovely things, delicate shreds. Although hailed as a Surrealist, I don't think he really was one, in the same way that I find it hard to think of Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington as Surrealists -- not because they weren't surreal, but because they offered up a world that was, in its own way, utterly coherent and understandable -- in an instinctive, imaginative sense, I mean.
|Remedios Varo, Papilla de estrellas, 1958. |
Via Ribbon Around a Bomb.