Leslie Thornton

Basic Info

Name: Leslie Thornton
Country of Origin: US


Leslie Thornton is a filmmaker and artist known for her avant-garde work and digital focus. Born in 1951 in Knoxville, Tennessee, she then moved to Schenectady, New York,  as a teenager, where she first developed an interest in film attending experimental film screenings at her local church. She also began painting at this time, influenced artistically by the Minimalist and Conceptualist leanings of the period. In 1969, she started undergraduate studies at Tufts University, but ultimately transferred to the State University of New York at Buffalo to study painting and film, and pursued graduate studies at MIT and the Hartford Art School. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate education, Thornton began to notice a dissatisfaction with painting as an expressive force; she wanted to investigate the emotional world in more depth, and this urge led her to her first experiments with filmmaking in 1975. After graduating, she abandoned painting to pursue film, which has dominated most of her artistic career.

Thornton’s first widely recognized and perhaps best known work is the serial Peggy and Fred in Hell, published in installments between 1984 and 2013. The serial explores themes of science fiction, ethnography, narrative form, consciousness and language, and cinematic theory.

Thornton has exhibited at MoMA and the Centre Pompidou, among many others. She is Professor Emerita of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University and lives in both Providence, RI, and New York City with her partner.

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