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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Maya Deren

b. 1917, Kiev, Ukraine; d. 1961, New York

Maya Deren was a director whose work was critical to the start of the American avant-garde film movement. Deren’s education was in journalism and literature. After realizing an interest in modern dance, Deren began working for the choreographer Katherine Dunham. While in Los Angeles for a performance by Dunham’s dancers, she met the Czech filmmaker Alexander Hammid. The two were subsequently married and in 1943 co-directed Meshes of the Afternoon, which became one of the most significant early experimental films produced in America. A year later, Deren directed her own film, At Land, which similarly explored dreamlike psychological states. She directed four more films, focused on dance and the psyche: A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945), Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946), Meditation on Violence (1948), and The Very Eye of Night (1954). She also lectured about filmmaking, started the Creative Film Foundation, and published the books Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (1953) and An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film (1946).