Swanson Elementary School

January 25, 2001

Students of Dede Marshall's third grade class conduct an eSchool chat with Mary, a docent with the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.. Student questions are posted using the eSchool account of Erik Clark



erik clark: Howdy

Mary: Hi Howdy

Mary: Are your kids with you yet and ready to talk about Joseph Cornell?

erik clark: Yes, they just arrived

Mary: Hi, Who

erik clark: Here is the first question: Is the egg on the very bottom bad?

Mary: Hi. Who will we be speaking with. Can you tell me your names?

erik clark: Andrea, Chelsea, and David are here today

Mary: Are you looking at Dovecote #2?

erik clark: Sorry, Yes we are.

Mary: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1978/1978.95.13_1b.jpg

Mary: Can you see it on the screen?

erik clark: Yes we can

Mary: Why would you think the eggs are bad?

erik clark: The egg at the bottom looks smaller and much darker. It appears different.

Mary: Are they really eggs?

erik clark: We don't know if they are really eggs. Wouldn't real eggs get rotten sitting there?

Mary: Yes they would. What about the prints inthe back of th box?

erik clark: It looks like he put the eggs in there and painted around them.

erik clark: We would like to know how Cornell died.

Mary: He died of old age at age 70. But let's talk about him as a live artist. What do you know about him?

erik clark: He lived in the basement of his mom and brother's house. His brother had cerebral palsy. He didn't

get interested in painting until he was 20.

erik clark: Did he ever have birds of his own?

Mary: He died of old age at age 70. But let's talk about him as a live artist. What do you know about him?

Mary: We do not know for sure if he had birds, maybe pigeons. City kids have pigeons on their roofs. He was

a big collector of many things in his neighborhood. Do you collect things. And would you put your treasures

in boxes llike he did?

Mary: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1985/1985.64.42A-B_1b.gif

erik clark: We collect quarters, arrowheads, shells, books, beanie babies, and rocks. We have put things in


erik clark: on gruyere, did he make everything here? Did he take the box and glue things to it?

Mary: So, let's look at this "Bel Echo Box" There's a cheese wedge in there. Under the wedge he had put a

bellows, and when you picked upthe wedge and turned it over, it made the sound of Moo. This was a ready

made box that he had found in the store.

Mary: He was kind of giving honor to the cheese industry.

Mary: You collect lots of things, quarters, arrowheads. Why do you collect things? Why do you think Cornell

collected things. Do you think he was like a kid all his life?

erik clark: in "Portrait of Ondine", who or what is Ondine?

Mary: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1985/1985.64.84_1b.jpg

erik clark: Maybe he didn't have much stuff, so he collected things he liked. A grown-up probably wouldn't

collect things like that.

Mary: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1985/1985.64.84_1b.jpg

erik clark: We would also like to know what the pink letter says

Mary: In portait of Ondine, she is a ballet dancer he admired. He used to go to her dances and stand

backstage and try to cut abit of her costume off. That may be a snippet of her tutu on the book.

erik clark: We have to go now. Thank you. Bye

Mary: We cant enlarge the letter right now so we will not be able to read it. All the other pieces in the box have

to do with parts of her dancing life.

erik clark: Our next group is here. Clarisse, Tony, and Scott.

erik clark: We are going to start with "Portrait of Ondine"

Mary: Hi, Clarisse, Tony and Scott. Let's talk about Joseph Cornell's life. He was born about 100 years ago in

New York and then lived in New York City and took care of his mother and brother all his life until he died

when he was 70. He collected things all his life. Do you collect things?

erik clark: Yes we do, we collect 3d puzzles, things we can build with, different kinds of glitter stuff, and

pokemon cards.

erik clark: Are these items really important to Ondine?

Mary: Why do you collect things. Do you think you have the same reasons for collecting that Cornell did?

Isn't that a kid thing to do?

erik clark: We collect things we are interested in. That is probably why Cornell collected things too. It is

something adults do to. Beanie babies and things like that.

Mary: Ondine was a ballet dancer. He loved being near her and seeing her dance. He would stand back stage

and sometimes he would take a snippet of her costume. On the book on the left that may be a little piece of

her tutu. The rest ofthe items are pictures of her, and programs of her performances.

erik clark: We learned that Cornell liked Houdini. Does Ondine have anything to do with Houdini? (Their names

sound alike)

Mary: Cornell did like Houdini because Houdini was a great magician and was good at escaping. Do you think

Cornell's little boxes and collections were his way of escaping.

erik clark: yes

Mary: How about we look at another box, one that Cornell found.

erik clark: that would be good

Monica Sanjur: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1985/1985.64.42A-B_1b.gif

Mary: W'll be looking at a cheese box called Bel Echo. What do you see?

erik clark: We see a cow, a silver block that looks like cheese, and a little tag that looks like it has a cows

head on it.

Mary: Under the cheese wedge Cornell made a little bellow so that when you turn it over it makes the sound of


erik clark: What does the cow have to do with it?

Mary: He used this box to make a little statement about how good he thought the cheese industry was. And

he used a little sound effect tohonor the cow who makes the milk which makes the cheese.

erik clark: What does "Bel Echo Gruyere" mean? Is there any way you can tell us how to pronounce that?

Mary: Bel Echo is th name of cheese company. Gruyere is a swiss cheese. Gree-air is a possible


erik clark: Can we look at "Dreams are like Stars"?

Mary: Let's go to another image. You are learning to read. And you must be working on letters.

Monica Sanjur: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1984/1984.124.71_1b.jpg

Mary: Ok, we'll look at stars and forget the other image. The stars box is a picture of a gladiator who is

carrying 2 lambs.

Mary: Somtimes Cornell used different colors in the boxes. Blue meant night, white or yellow meant day.

Mary: This box he made to illustrate that we may think of the stars as ideals that we work toward.

erik clark: Who did he make this box for? What are the stars made from?

Mary: The figure in the box is a gladiator, a star constellation. He is steering himself by th stars.

Mary: He made the box for a company who wanted him to illustrate ideals. Do you know what ideals are.

erik clark: Ideals are like dreams you have to work to make come true.

erik clark: Are those seashells and a log on the bottom?

Mary: Yes, ideals are like dreams. You can't touch them but you can use them to help you on your way.

Monica Sanjur: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1984/1984.124.71_1a.jpg

Mary: Yes, they are seashells. So he is doing a box about the stars and the sea and maybe the land. sailors

navigated by

Mary: Now you can see the seashells clearer. He is taking the whole earth in. Scroll down so you can see


erik clark: That picture is not loading for us.

Mary: We'll try again

Monica Sanjur: http://nmaa-ryder.si.edu/images/1984/1984.124.71_1a.jpg

Mary: We put in a larger image. Try scrolling.

erik clark: Still nothing. That is ok. We will look at the smaller image.

Mary: I hope you will enjoy doing your boxeswhen you illustrate the stories you are reading.

erik clark: Yes, we are looking forward to it. We have to go now. Thank You. Bye

Mary: Has Joseph Cornell helped you think about what you want to put in your boxes. Bye now.

erik clark: Well, the kids are gone now. I would like to thank you again. They were really into it.


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