Today in Queer Modernist History: Joseph Cornell’s Transcendental Experience

Today in Queer Modernist History: An Ongoing Archive of Journal and Diary Entries 

Extract from Joseph Cornell’s journal entry marked August 17, 1945:

joseph cornell penny arcade with horse“One of the most transcendental experiences ever remember. Rode into Mueller’s to watch riders taking out horses for bareback riding. Men or boys swimming along side grounds back always ‘ole swimming hole’ feeling – girl about yen years ash blonde with braided hair done up at back on ‘Smoky’ her horse beautifully natural kind of sophistication in her unpretentious semi-wise cracks trying to get horse out of paddock * * * After they’d gone awhile rode back to main highway over dusty dirt road and around to Francis Lewis – the feelings aroused by the manner and speech of the little girl on the horse gave the group seen in the distance cavalcading through the grasses of the fields a deep and poignant quality Grand MEAULNES to perfection – hard to be articulate about.”


Joseph Cornell
Untitled (Penny Arcade with Horse)
Stamps and Pennies on Masonite, 12 x 9 in.
(Maurice and Margo Cohen Collection)


Cornell, Joseph. Joseph Cornell’s Theater of the Mind: Selected Diaries, Letters, and Files. Ed. Mary Ann Caws. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993.



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