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The dreamer of Utopia ParkwayIn the fall of 1956 when I entered the New York art world Joseph Cornell was known only to a small group of artists and writers Although a few of his pieces were on view at the Museum of Modern Art it was not until his exhibition at the Stable Gallery in December 1957 that I was able to see a larger body of work The gallery was in an old stable on 58th Street and Seventh Avenue Cornells works were displayed in a darkened room a setting that enhanced their object-like quality In contrast to the abstract expressionists whose work was expansive Cornells world was compressed Each of his works made reference to an experience a person or a thing that had captivated him whether it was a Medici prince the night sky a ballerina or a movie star a hotel in France or a cockatoo Enthralled by his work I continued to follow his career and shortly afterwards saw another exhibition of his art at the Loeb Student Centre New York University In December 1963 I contacted Cornell who invited me to his home at 3708 Utopia Parkway in Queens The artist greeted me showed me into the modest living quarters and introduced me to his mother and disabled brother Robert A short time later I met his sisters Helen Jagger and Betty Benton and his niece Helen Batcheller Cornell and I formed a friendship that lasted until his death in 1972 I came to know him as Joe the name his family used He was a tall thin man with a large head greying hair and hooded but piercing blue eyes He was slightly stooped and wore a thick sweater slacks and loafers His was a formidable presence made more so by the shape of his head which resembled a birds His hands were rough and calloused the hands of a worker and his grip was like
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