Smithsonian American Art Museum Presents Viewfinder Virtual Film Series: Leslie Thornton on Surviving

By Editorial Team on August 2, 2021
Leslie Thornton, Peggy and Fred in Kansas, 1987, 11 minutes, black & white, sound, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the Ford Motor Company, 2008.21.11, © 1987 Leslie Thornton. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix, NY.
Screening: Thursday, August 5 at 5:30pm ET

Join the Smithsonian American Art Museum for an engaging virtual lecture with award-winning filmmaker Leslie Thornton. Learn how Thornton, with her decades-long episodic film epic Peggy and Fred in Hell (1983–2015), secured a place of reverence in cinema history. Enjoy a special screening of the series’ most well-known video, Peggy and Fred in Kansas (11 mins, 1987). In this short piece, viewers are introduced to the protagonists as young children, responding to a post-apocalyptic Earth that has forced them into hiding. They live among the debris of their former society and rely on tune-in radio signals for glimpses into another world. Following the screening, Thornton and Saisha Grayson, time based media curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, reflect on how this avant-garde film classic resonates with renewed urgency for audiences in 2021, after a year of contemplating a threatening environment “out there” via media consumption while at home. They will be joined by Natalie Bell, curator at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, who is organizing the Thornton retrospective that opens there this October.

This program is part of Viewfinder: Women’s Film and Video from the Smithsonian, a monthly virtual film screening and conversation series sponsored by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, Because of Her Story. This first sequence of selected works reflects on interiority—a particularly timely topic during this global pandemic.

Visit for more information about upcoming events in this film screening series.

Location: Online
Tickets: Free; Registration Required via Zoom