Martica Sawin, Bowdoin College Catalogue, 1990 (excerpt)

His self-assigned task, then, has been to mediate between direct experience and the synthetic artistic ideal. The resultant paintings have a bi-polar anchorage in these two antitheses so that they are animated by an on-going dialogue between the quotidian and the timeless…It is in this series of dichotomies that the post-modernity, that is, up-to-the-minute contemporaneity, of Cornell’s work manifests itself…Cornell’s work is a radical today as Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe was in the Second Empire. In a single painting Manet managed to redefine the artist’s relation to tradition, to issue a withering statement about social hypocrisy, and to assert blatantly that style was a part of content. Similarly, Cornell’s Four Seasons…breaks a number of unspoken present-day taboos. The shock is not in the juxtaposition of the naked and the clothed that disturbed Manet’s public, rather it is in the seriousness with which a harmony of human relationships is portrayed, the high-key color that radiates optimism and well-being, and, most of all, a genuine humanism that harks back to the Renaissance…It is a fascinating tour de force that he has accomplished…The syntax is wholly contemporary, while the image is a tantalizing parable for our time.