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A Machine Worth Much More Than a Penny!

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903–1972). Penny Arcade Machine, 1950. Box construction; wood, glass, mirror, and printed paper. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection, Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman, 2006 (2006.32.11)

Sculpture has long been my favorite type of art, but there is one sculpture in Spies in the House of Art—a box construction by Joseph Cornell—that particularly captures my imagination. Cornell's piece is a wooden box containing a picture of a boy against a blue background. The picture is a reproduction of a portrait in the Wadsworth Atheneum's collection. I like how different this piece is from the other works in the exhibition. I think it is unique, mystical, and modern.

This sculpture reminds me of a maze. Doug Eklund, the exhibition's curator, told us that Cornell drew inspiration from a casino when he created this take on a penny arcade machine. The artist usually creates little worlds within his boxes, and this box is no exception. Doug explained to us that Cornell’s experiences in arcades as a child in New York influenced this piece.

This work reminds me of a roller coaster sculpture I made two years ago. My sculpture is like a ride, just like Cornell's box is like an arcade! I made this piece out of found objects such as pencils, rope, blocks, tennis balls, and Polly Pocket™ pieces.

Claudia. Roller Coaster of Life, 2010

If you created a box sculpture like Cornell's, what would you put in it?

We welcome your response to this question below.

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