IotD: Charles Henri Ford Writes Joseph Cornell from Italy

Over the last few days I’ve spent some time digging into the wonderfully expansive online holdings of the Joseph Cornell Papers maintained by the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art website. Cornell sustained a lively correspondence with Ford, Parker Tyler, and a number of individuals pertinent to this site, and as the intricate networks formed by the queer modernists is a topic of particular interest to me, I plan to start featuring these visual traces and mementos that offer small, illuminating glimpses into various social connections.

To start off, this lively (and very legible–not always a given!) postcard from Ford to Cornell sent in 1954. Ford’s humorous indication of his “room” in the Italian town of Frascati certainly is in line with his sly, wicked sense of humor:

Charles Henri Ford postcard of Frascati to Joseph Cornell (front)

Charles Henri Ford postcard of Frascati to Joseph Cornell (back)

Deborah Solomon reports in her biography of Cornell that Ford and Cornell “began corresponding in 1939, after Ford wrote to Cornell to propose that they collaborate on a volume of poems and collages.” Cornell was apparently flattered by the suggestion, but “saw little possibility of an artistic partnership” demurring to Ford in a letter due to his “total lack of interest in psychoanalysis and the current preoccupation with sex.” But even if a full collaborative effort never came to fruition, Cornell’s nonetheless provide Ford a whimsical cover for his poetry collection ABC‘spublished in 1940.

The reference to author Isak Dinesen (pen name of Karen Blixen) in this note is an interesting one, as Solomon’s records that “when Ford gave [Cornell] a copy of Isak Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales, he inscribed the book: ‘Joseph, these were written for you.'”

Ford’s indispensable published journal Water from a Bucket indicates that he and Tchelitchew (Pavlik)’s time in Frascati stretched into early 1956. I particularly like this uncharacteristically fanciful musing–the sole entry for November of 1954:

I took a terrace walk and saw the most brilliant falling star–I always make the same wish: Love.

A sentiment that seems, quite honestly, much more in line with Cornell’s romantic sensibility than Ford’s bawdier, unsentimental impulses.

 

Provenance:
General Correspondence: Ford, Charles Henri, 1939-1970
Joseph Cornell Papers, 1804-1986
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Works Cited

Ford, Charles Henri. Water from a Bucket: A Diary, 1948-1957. New York City: Turtlepoint, 2001.

Solomon, Deborah. Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.

upcoming academic conference presentation

pamla logoThought I would break this period of extended radio silence (*sigh*) to mention that I will be presenting some research from my thesis at this year’s annual PAMLA conference. It will be taking place in Portland, OR, from November 6-8, and I present on a panel during the first session on Saturday morning. If anybody reading this is also attending, please stop by and say hello!

Here’s the info and my presentation abstract. Additional information (including abstracts for the full panel), can be found here.

pamla header

Cruising at the Intersection: The Queer Collaborative Authorship of The Young and Evil
Jesse Ataide, San Francisco State University

“What kind of discoveries are made possible when two gay men confront each other?” Christopher Hennessy asks, “with the acknowledgment of a shared sexual desire lurking there?” This paper considers how queer content in Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler’s 1933 novel The Young and Evil reflect a strategy of “cooperative discourse” that compels a reconsideration now only of the concept of authorship, but also how friendship, intimacy, and creative cooperation can function between queer men.”

My paper on Samuel M. Steward’s detective fiction was very well received at PAMLA 2013, and so I’m very much looking forward to presenting again this year!

Re: Charles Henri Ford for His Birthday

Charles Henri Ford by Dimitri Yeros

[Not exactly a birthday cake… but who’s complaining??]

February 10 marked what would have been Charles Henri Ford’s 107th birthday, and to commemorate I thought I’d direct some attention to Indra Tamang’s lovely remembrance of CHF. A photographer and artist who served as a cook and caretaker to first CHF and then to his sister, Ruth, Tamang made headlines over the years as he became the primary inheritor of both of their estates, worth millions of dollars in NYC real estate, artwork, etc. I’ve been following his efforts to on both his blog The Hermitage and the Facebook page The Charles & Ruth Project to promote the sibling’s artistic accomplishments.

I particularly appreciated the closing lines of his remembrance:

Had Charles lived, he would be 107 years old today. At the end of his life his mind was sharp and clear, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded living to be 107. I don’t think either Charles or Ruth ever thought for a minute that they wouldn’t just live forever, at least that’s the impression I always had. Ruth was always thinking she’d be getting ‘better’ soon, even though there was nothing wrong with her but age.

Thankfully, Charles never seemed the least bit frightened at the end of his life. When it came to living, he always said, “Just play it as it lays,” and that’s what he did. And he enjoyed every birthday, and every other day too, to the fullest.

Also worth taking a look at is an overview of CHF’s life put together by Elisa over at her Reviews & Ramblings, especially for the collection of images she pulled together.

So cheers to CHF on a lived long and fully!

Provenance

Charles Henri Ford (2000s)
Dimitris Yeros
Website

 

IotD: The Many Faces of Charles Henri Ford

I’ve gushed about Deviates, Inc. before, and I can’t help but repost a mini-collection that was posted there yesterday, which contains multiple sketches of young Charles Henri Ford drawn by Pavel Tchelitchew. My guess is that all date from the 1930’s, in the period just after Ford and Tchelitchew met in Paris and embarked on their decades-spanning romantic relationship.

From Ford’s diary, July 1953:

“Twenty years ago tomorrow was the beginning of what has resulted in a twenty-year relationship, constant association, with Pavlik. I wrote Parker [Tyler] then: ‘I’ve found a genius.'”

charles henri ford by tchelitchew 1

charles henri ford by tchelitchew 3

charles henri ford by tchelitchew 2

See the original post at Deviates, Inc here.

WORK CITED

Ford, Charles Henri. Water from a Bucket: A Diary, 1948-1957. New York City: Turtlepoint, 2001.