Soap Bubble Set, 1949-50
Soap Bubble Set offers a theatrical glimpse into the cosmos. Situated on Earth, the viewer observes the mountains and valleys of the moon, first discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610. The glasses, holding specimens of land and sea, embody the gravitational pull of the earth, perhaps in relation to the lunar influence on tides. The freely moving sphere rolls between the opposing forces while cutouts of shells, stars, and other references to the natural world float above. Following Edwin Hubble's confirmation of the rapidly expanding universe in 1929, the metaphor of a swelling soap bubble proliferated in the popular press. For Cornell, who had a long-standing interest in astronomy and stayed abreast of breaking news, this metaphor would have resonated with his own memories of blowing bubbles with clay pipes as a child and the wonder of their creation. Cornell's series of Soap Bubble Sets, sometimes called planetariums, is a decade-long rumination on the great astronomers of the past and the contemporary discoveries and innovations in space technology.