About this artwork
Cornell’s bird boxes often play with forms of representation and with the contrast between the natural and the artificial. In his trips into the countryside, he would often gather materials for his boxes, and in this one, the large, angular piece of bark placed toward the right interior edge may be the lump Cornell reported finding in January 1948 and described as “magnificently dried bark for owl bark, single piece, for owl boxes” (Cornell 1993, p. 152). In any case it adds a sense of depth to the box by providing a kind of opened curtain, from behind which the owl is revealed. The sheet of blue glass renders the interior as dark as a forest at night, and the small electric bulb above, when lit, suggests moonlight. The dramatic chiaroscuro effect prompts comparison with photography, as well as underlining the contrast between the two-dimensional pictorial representation of the owl and its “real” habitat. The numerous worm holes in the wood frame are the result of simulated rather than authentic insect damage and appear to be original to the box‘s construction. For more on Cornell‘s Owl Boxes, see Untitled (Large Owl).
— Entry, Dawn Ades, Surrealist Art: The Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1997, p. 61.
- Joseph Cornell
- Untitled (Lighted Owl)
- United States
- Stained wood box with glass front, paper, light bulb, colored-paper image on wood form, plastic spider, tree bark, and dried leaves
- Signed on back, lower center, on strip of paper: Joseph Cornell
- 14 3/8 × 10 1/4 × 5 3/16 in. + 1/4 in. D coverplate for electrical wire
- Lindy and Edwin Bergman Joseph Cornell Collection
- Art © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY