Closer to Life: The Work of Sari Dienes

Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Research Paper

Degree Name



Art & Art History

First Advisor

Annette Stott

Second Advisor

Marisa Lerer


Sari Dienes, Criticism and interpretation, Women artists, Art, American, 20th century


Like many of her female contemporaries, artist Sari Dienes’s contributions to the art historical dialogue have been largely overlooked in favor of her male counterparts. Often seen as a mentor and mother figure to neo-Dada artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Dienes was an active member of the New York avant-garde circle surrounding composer/choreographer duo John Cage and Merce Cunningham in the 1950s and 1960s. These social relationships are central to the existing discourse on Sari Dienes, while her work remains little discussed. The fact that her dynamic, ever-changing style lacked aesthetic consistency was commonly lamented by notable figures such as Betty Parsons, however, I argue that Dienes’s diverse oeuvre is unified by her philosophies on art and life. The unification of art and life, denoted clearly by Dienes’s use of the found object, experimentation and chance happenings, and sensory experience, marks her as an innovator and catalyst in the neo-Dada movement as well as in other experimental art endeavors that took place in the aftermath of Abstract Expressionism.


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Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.

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