Work of Art: Suzy’s Sun (for Judy Tyler)
American
1903–1972
Suzy’s Sun (for Judy Tyler)
1957
Box construction: including wood, glass, plastic, metal, tempera, cork, seashell, and paper
h. 10 3/4 x w. 15 x d. 4 in. (27.3 x 38.1 x 10.2 cm)
Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina, 1978
Art © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Joseph Cornell is identified with the enthralling shadow boxes he fabricated and filled with disparate objects—collected both by chance and by choice. Time and memory, themes central to Cornell, are pointedly addressed in Suzy’s Sun (for Judy Tyler). The sun (a cutout from an antipasto tin) and the sea (an implied presence) speak with eloquent authority of life cycles and passing time. Equally potent symbols--driftwood and the infinitely spiraling seashell--readily bring to mind the tides on which they ride, summoning a universal metaphor for the ebb and flow of life itself.

The assembled elements oddly, and poetically, lead to a sense of irrevocable loss; Cornell equates the human condition with a state of permanent longing. Perhaps that outlook explains his attraction to the theater, a world where dreams become real, if only temporarily. Cornell dedicated this box to an actress, one of the many starlets who fascinated him. Judy Tyler had just achieved a certain celebrity when she was killed in an automobile accident. Suzy probably refers to the artist’s assistant Suzanne Miller. The sun, designated as Suzy’s, presides over the box as a life-sustaining force counteracting the finality of death. Cornell is paying homage to the magical powers of transformation possessed by both the sun and art. The elegy culminates in an ode to fantasy and creativity.

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