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Eleanor Antin

(1935 - )

Eleanor Antin is a Jewish American performace artist, filmmaker and installation artist.

She was born Eleanor Fineman in the Bronx, New York on February 27, 1935, she works in photography, video, film, installation, performance, drawing, and writing. Her work focuses primarily on contemporary issues of identity and women’s roles in society using the realms of history. Antin is a cultural chameleon, masquerading in theatrical or stage roles to expose her many selves.

Antin's parents immigrated to the United States from Poland in the 1930s. Her father, Sol Fineman, was a socialist and atheist who worked in the garment industry in New York and her mother, Jeanette Efron, was a former actress in the Yiddish theater in Poland and was a business woman and entrepreneur. Antin majored in art at the Music and Art High School in New York and went on to major in writing and minor in art at City College of New York (CCNY). She studied philosophy at the New School for Social Research and acting at the Tamara Daykarhonova School for the Stage from 1954-1956 but decided to quit school for a job with a traveling road company. Antin returned to CCNY and received her B. A. in creative writing and art in 1958.

In 1972, she photographed herself naked during successive stages of a month of crash-dieting to comprise the work Carving: A Traditional Sculpture. During the same year, she created The Eight Temptations, a collection of photos showing resistance to tempting snack foods.

From 1974-1975, Antin taught at the University of California at Irvine. In 1975, she joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, where she lives with her husband and son.

From 1979-1989, the focus of Antin's work was her most famous persona, Eleanora Antinova. Antinova was a ballerina of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (The Russian Ballets), who, though she possesses a beautiful figure according to modern societal standards, lacks the ideal body-type of a ballerina. In her work, Recollections of My Life with Diaghilev, Antin appears as Antinova in many performances to create a collection of work detailing Antinova’s fictitious life, including a memoir, films, photographs, performances, and drawings. She also explores her Jewish identity and background in The Hebrews, a ballet Antinova choreographed.

In 1997, she received the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and in 1998 a Media Achievement Award from The National Foundation for Jewish Culture. In her 2001 series The Last Days of Pompeii, Antin films the Roman history of Emperor Pompeii’s last days. In 2005, she created Roman Allegories.

Antin has had several solo exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has also been in group exhibitions at the Hirschhorn Museum and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. She has pieces at major collections in multiple other museums, such as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Jewish Museum. Antin has performed worldwide, including in the Venice Biennale and the Sydney Opera House. Her films have been featured in many film festivals, such as The Man Without a World, 1991, which was featured at the San Francisco Jewish Festival.

Sources: Jewish Women's Archives, PBS, Wikipedia