Sometimes called shadow boxes, dioramas, box art, or simply assemblage, these are some of the boxes I have made.
Since childhood I have had a fascination with miniatures and found objects. Any bit of packaging, electronic parts, or simply scrap that caught my eye was swept up. My family joked that any repair person who came to the house might be asked, “What’s that? Can I have it?” as they cleaned up their detritus. Soon, I was making small dioramas in whatever containers suited my fancy using my own toys, plastic models, and collected objects. It was make-believe, play, and a simple fascination with what an object can evoke.
These collections moved with me as I grew up and eventually began showing them in old soda crates hung on my walls. It was a collection, a kind of Cabinet of Curiosities. I still keep a collection in my studio as well as drawers filled with small objects
Such collections, also known as Wunderkammer and Cabinets of Wonder, emerged in central Europe in the 16th century. The wondrous objects placed in these cabinets included biological and geological specimens , archaeological, religious or historical relics, works of art, and antiquities, though seldom considered works of art on their own. My own collection was in this vein. And, as an artist emerging in the early 1970’s, even as I was engaged in conceptual art and social practice strategies, I found also myself drawn to drawing on my collections to make art. In this I was highly influenced by the artist Joseph Cornell, most of whose work was in the form of boxes. While often classed as a surrealist, as a Christian Scientist, Cornell explored the nature of reality. My own “boxart” reflects this inquiry, though without the Eurocentric and romance that guides much of his work.
Over the years, the boxes have taken many forms including games in game boxes, puzzle boxes, and more. Some are electrified, have a switch to flip; some have drawers and doors to open. Play remains a central theme even when coupled with serious social and political issues.