The shy, reclusive and self taught maker of shadow boxes and experimental films, Joseph Cornell , rarely left New York State, with the exception of a few college years in Andover, Mass, spending most of his life in a modest house in the beautifully named Utopia Parkway, Queens, caring for his mother and disabled brother. His artwork is filled with a yearning for the unobtainable ; birds with their freedom of flight, glamorous movie stars and ballerinas as the source of passionate, platonic romances and especially travel to the most luxurious and wondrous locations.
Hotels are a common feature of his shadow boxes, miniature visions of rest stops and trysting places for artistic, mythological and astrological archetypes as they travel through the starry Empyrean and the wastes of infinity.
In the late thirties the Chilean Surrealist artist Roberto Matta painted a series of large canvases that he called inscapes: imaginary landscapes that were a projection of the internal psyche. Using the techniques of surrealist automatism and displaying his interest in non-Euclidean geometry Matta’s inscapes are vast, visionary cosmic dramas.
Along with many other Surrealists he emigrated to the United States in 1939 to escape WWII and would live there until 1948. While in New York he would, along with his fellow Surrealist Arshile Gorky (see Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia) influence an emerging generation of young American artists, the Abstract Expressionists, including the pioneers Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollack. Matta would be expelled from the Surrealists due to his affair with Gorky’s wife, which the Surrealist believed contributed to Gorky’s tragic suicide.
The cosmic dimension of Matta’s painting evokes certain elements of science fiction. His influence can definitely be felt and is in fact name-checked (along with many other Surrealist artists) by the great English writer J.G Ballard, who said that science fiction should concentrate, not on outer space, but on the inner space of the mind.