Discipline: Film/Video – experimental

Benita Raphan

Discipline: Film/Video – experimental
Region: New York
MacDowell Fellowships: 2004

Benita Raphan (1962-2021) was an interdisciplinary artist/digital biographer who searched for answers about where creative ideas come from since the third grade. She lived and worked in London, Paris, and New York City, and made short experimental films. Some of her subjects were mathematician John Nash, futurist Buckminster Fuller, and Polaroid film inventor Edwin Land. She continued her ongoing exploration of creativity with a project exploring the intertwining themes of Emily Dickinson’s work and life, language and symbols, and the neurological correlates of creativity at MacDowell. Her film about Dickinson, Up to Astonishment, was released in 2020.

Raphan earned a B.A. in media arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York — where she also taught for the last 15 years — and an M.F.A. from the Royal College of Art in London. She spent 10 years in Paris, working as a graphic designer for fashion companies like Marithé & François Girbaud, before returning to New York in the mid-1990s.

In 2012, she received an NYFA Opportunity Grant to work on an interactive project. In October 2013, her film, The Critical Path, about R. Buckminster Fuller, was shown at the Walker Art Center, and in January 2016, NYFA serialized “The Gift of Time,” an audio podcast with moving visuals that Raphan created in collaboration with filmmaker Alan Berliner speaking about his process. She was a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow.

Raphan's first films were commissioned by Channel Four Television UK and the Arts Council of England. They were also purchased for the collections of The British Film & Video Artist's Film Study Collection and the Bentson/Ruben Study Center at the Walker Art Center. Her collages are in the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. Her films have also been screened at the Museum of Modern Art, and have been shown at the Sundance and Tribeca festivals, as well as on the Sundance Channel, HBO, PBS and Channel Four in Britain.

You can read more in this New York Times obituary.



Benita Raphan worked in the Sprague-Smith studio.

In January of 1976, the original Sprague-Smith Studio — built in 1915–1916 and funded by music students of Mrs. Charles Sprague-Smith of the Veltin School — was destroyed by fire. Redesigned by William Gnade, Sr., a Peterborough builder, the fieldstone structure was rebuilt the same year from the foundation up, reusing the original fieldstone. A few…

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