I was absolutely thrilled when a viewer to my Facebook page Denise’s Boxes / Denise McDowell Art contacted me during the week.
A lady by the name of Lana commented that she had actually met the assemblage artist Joseph Cornell many years ago, and not only that, he had given her one of his boxes as a present. Now, as most of you know, I am a huge admirer of this particular artist and have been inspired to create box assemblage pieces through his work.
To actually be able to ‘meet’ someone who spoke to him and received a gift from him is absolutely fascinating to me. Lana and I exchanged some messages and she has given me permission to tell her story on my blog and has provided me with some photographs to share.
As a 16 year old working in a store on Main Street, Flushing, Queens, NY, Lana lived only a few miles from Joseph Cornell. The store sold fabric and the artist would come in every now and then to buy fabric. She remembers him as ‘very quiet and polite’. He also asked if she and another girl would work part time cleaning his home – Lana says that unfortunately her mother would not give her permission but the other girl did work for him for a time. In her own words she says, “What a lost opportunity, can you imagine I would have been able to see inside his home and his unfinished works”. I agree!
Joseph Cornell presented Lana with a tiny box assemblage which she has treasured since 1966 and which shows on one side an image of a child, possibly a Medici print which have featured in many of his boxes. On the other side of the box is a simple stamp showing a seahorse. The box is papered inside and you can plainly see Cornell’s handwriting where he has dedicated and signed the artwork personally to Lana. Oh my goodness, how excited I was to see these photographs!
I really am honoured that Lana contacted me and feel that this is a very important find not only for Cornell followers but the world of art in general. I hope you get as much pleasure from looking at this tiny treasure as I (and Lana!) have had.
Last month one of my work colleagues asked if she could commission a box for her father’s upcoming 80th birthday. I was very happy to oblige but it was also daunting to be given this major task as the box was going to be making its way half way around the world, to Brazil in fact!
I love to know as much about the person who will receive the box as possible and this gentleman really has lived an interesting life! He was not only a dentist in the military, but had an amazing football career and a lifelong interest in ornithology – this was going to be interesting. Thankfully his daughter had provided me with some gorgeous old photographs, memorabilia and the rest I was able to source for myself.
I began by papering the inside of the box with vintage inspired papers including some of birds native to South America, advertising papers from old dental magazines and maps of Brazil. I then placed the main photographic images in place having scanned, resized and aged them. Of course I had to add a few of my signature elements such as a little watch and some game pieces!
The final touch was to place the special items such as medals and family photos into the assemblage and check the final look of the box before handing it over for delivery! It was a real honour to make this special keepsake and I was so happy when it was received by my friend with such joy.
Cannot wait to see my twin sister, Moyra Blayney take part in this new BBC NI art show called ‘The People’s Painters’ which was filmed all over the Province during last summer. All five amateur artists were chosen from over 100 applicants and their task is to paint three works based on Work, People and Places. It is so nice to see some local talent on display and if you are interested in seeing more of Moyra’s amazing original art have a look at the Yard Gallery’s website – just put Moyra in the search bar!
Mo’s first appearance on the BBC – when we both took part in Bargain Hunt a few years ago!
Mo uses all sorts of mediums – this is a collage using old Belfast receipts!
#One of Mo’s famous floral wreath paintings – get in touch if you would like to know how to paint one yourself!#This is Mo at the Hallows Gallery and Framing at their Untold Story Exhibition (not her painting by the way!)
So happy to get the news that another of my boxes has made it into the summer collection at The Hallows Gallery on the Ormeau Road in Belfast. This piece is based on the theme of ‘Linenopolis’ an old name for Belfast when it was the centre of the world’s linen industry. If you are passing the gallery call in and see it and all the other gorgeous works of art. It is a very friendly space and has a lovely relaxed atmosphere, check out their website! www.thehallowsgallery.com
My talented twin sister Moyra Blayney is forever using her teaching techniques to encourage others to explore their creative side. Her student range from those from the deaf community, children’s groups, in store demonstrations with Sostrene Grene to 140 Harry Potter Fans at Leakycon Dublin!
Well…that’s another two hour teaching session under my belt!! 🙂 This time we had both deaf and hearing people painting together (with our BSL interpreter!) at a Deaf Awareness Week event. We had a wonderful couple of hours using the Sostrene Grenes art materials! We started out by drawing practice, then progressed to techniques of applying the watercolour paint and finally the small group produced some wonderful floral rings! It’s amazing to think that some of these people have never painted before!! Wow…very impressed! Well done x
Such a lovely evening on 12th April for the preview night at The Hallows Gallery in Belfast for their new exhibition, ‘An Untold Story’. My box entitled ‘Miss Henderson’ was chosen to be part of it and I was thrilled that Moyra Blayney Art was able to join me to be my official photographer! (In the first photo you can see owner, Maebh who along with her husband Dylan put on an amazing night, thanks to them both!)
My box was placed in the perfect little nook under the amazing curved staircase and it was wonderful to see the reactions of visitors who sat down and peeked into see what it contained.
There are over fifty artworks in the exhibition with a percentage of the profits going to a local charity Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid. It will run until 12th May and is well worth a visit!
I have been having a ball creating these new little boxes, using some original vintage photographs and focusing on humour rather than meaningful items for commissions has been really refreshing. I am putting these up for sale on my Facebook page (Denise’s Boxes / Denise McDowell Art) at a very reasonable price so that some of my followers can own ‘a little bit of history in a box’! Enjoy!
Just looking at the number of gorgeous boxes I have been able to use over the years, of course the contents are always special too but am I the only person to search for one off boxes in vintage fairs, markets and shops?
I watched a fantastic documentary about the silent movie star Clara Bow on BBC iPlayer the other day and then I noticed how many times I use similar types of ladies in my boxes! Just something special about them, don’t you think? They just have ‘IT’!
Can’t quite believe it is five years since one of my boxes was added to the collection in the Belfast War Memorial Museum. It was to mark the 70th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz (now 75 years ago). You can see it in the foreground of this picture and it was to be used to take to school talks to show some items which were relevant to children in WW2 for example a little suitcase with identity tag used by evacuees. I was very honoured to have this chance to remember those affected by WW2 in my home town.
I revisited the Museum during Belfast’s Heritage night in September and it was lovely to see some Lindy Hop dancing and a singalong to ‘Songs from the Air Raid Shelter’. An amazing place. I do have a ‘thing’ about WW2 and my favourite books are by Nella Last who was the lady who wrote the diaries called ‘Housewife, 49’ which Victoria Wood turned into a fantastic tv drama.