A web of aliases : birds in the art of Joseph Cornell
My thesis examines some of the possible symbolic meaning attached to bird images in the box constructions and collages of American artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972). Bird images, though figuring prominently in Cornell's work throughout his lifetime, are either not addressed in the literature on Cornell or are attributed rather universal symbolism not necessarily based on any information about the artist or provided by the artist. This is largely due to the fact that primary source materials were not available until after the artist died. Cornell did not like to give interviews, and prior to his death the most information available was found in the catalog for his one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art. In order to unravel the special significance of the most frequently used birds, several sources were examined: his personal writings, his sources of inspiration, and his working techniques. I examine songbirds, owls, swans, parrots, cockatoos, the Empty Aviary works, and his Dovecote series, and present information that provides the possibilities of symbolism for each.