Public Engagement

General Public

How to Build a Box: The Life and Art of Joseph Cornell

Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm to 4:45 pm

Orozco Room, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall 66 West 12th Street, Room A712, New York, NY 10011

Joseph Cornell holds a unique place in the history of art. A self-taught artist best known for his three-dimensional shadow boxes, his astonishingly original body of work straddled the lines between sculpture, collage, painting, graphic design, assemblage, film, installations, and performance art. Inspired by Dada and Surrealism, Cornell’s work transmuted these influences into his own distinctly American vernacular and profoundly influenced the art of Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Ray Johnson, Carolee Schneeman, and Bruce Conner, among many others.

But Cornell was also a profoundly mystical artist, and his metaphysical beliefs were at the heart of his work. He was at the same time a radically autobiographical artist whose relationship to autobiography was inextricably linked to his metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality.

How to Build a Box: The Life and Art of Joseph Cornell proposes to view Cornell’s life and work as inter-related and to treat their interconnection as part of a larger spiritual project about the nature and purpose of existence.

The two-day conference will consist of three sessions. The first, “Cornell’s Legacy,” will present an overview of Cornell’s work from a variety of critical and scholarly perspectives. The second, “Cornell’s Art,” will offer an in-depth examination of Cornell’s various aesthetic strategies and their impact on art today. The third, “Cornell’s Life,” will examine the complex relationship between Cornell’s famously reclusive life and his devotion to the practice of art as a spiritual path.

Friday, October 10, 7:00-8:45 p.m.
Cornell’s Legacy

Speakers include:
1) Lynda Hartigan, Peabody Essex Museum
2) Robert Lehrman, The Voyager Foundation 
3) Mary Ann Caws, Graduate Center of CUNY
4) Caveh Zahedi, The New School

Saturday, October 11, 1:00-2:45 p.m.
Cornell’s Art

Speakers include:
1) Dawn Ades, University of Essex
2) Scott Zieher, ZieherSmith
3) Analisa Lepannen-Guerra
4) Jeanne Liotta, Artist & Filmmaker

3:00-4:45 p.m.
Cornell’s Life

1) Deborah Solomon, Art Critic, WNYC
2) Ed Batcheller, Artist
3) Lindsay Blair, University of the Highlands and Islands
4) Carolee Schneemann, Artist

All sessions will be held in the Orozco Room, 66 West 12th Street, Room 712. This event is presented by the Culture and Media Department at Eugene Lang College. 

Event Type

Conferences and Symposia


General Public


Art and Design


Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts


Free; No tickets or reservations required.

Admin Notes

Approved JR 9.17.14

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Getting Here

Detailed Directions

By Train:
The 4, 5, 6, N, R, Q and L to 14th St./Union Square.
The A, C and E to 14th St. and 8th Ave.
The 1, 2 and 3 to 14th St. and 7th Ave.
The The F and M to 14th St. and 6th Ave.
PATH train to 14th St. and 6th Ave.