Nancy Dine, a Filmmaker Who Redefined the Role of the ‘Artist’s Wife,’ Has Died at 83

Nancy Dine, who was married to artist Jim Dine for 40 years, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1996. 

Ugo Mulas, Jim Dine con la moglie Nancy (1964).

Nancy Dine, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, women’s rights advocate, and the longtime wife of artist Jim Dine, died on September 6 in New York. She was 83.

The cause of death was complications from lung cancer, her son Jeremiah told the New York Times, which first reported the news. 

Dine redefined what it meant to be an artist’s wife for her generation, and did so with “grace, style and blinding efficiency,” Barbara Jakobson, a friend of the Dines, told the Times. “Nancy was a brilliant manager of complicated lives.”

Dine was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1937, the daughter of a steelworker and a stay-at-home mother. She and Jim Dine met in the mid-1950s while studying at Ohio University. The couple married in college, in 1957 and, immediately after graduating, moved to New York where they promptly ingratiated themselves into the shapeshifting downtown art scene. Shortly thereafter, they had three children.

Alongside artists like Claes Oldenburg and John Cage, Jim Dine made his name staging quasi-conceptual, ad-hoc happenings, and, by the early ‘60s, he had established himself as a bona fide art star. By his side at every step of the way was Nancy, who acted, by turns, as his producer, muse, and assistant, appearing in many of his paintings and drawings. 

Car Crash by Jim Dine, Reuben Gallery, New York (1960). Photo: Robert T. McElroy / The Getty Research Institute.

The couple moved with their children to London in 1967, and eventually to Putney, Vermont, before settling back in New York in the ‘80s. In 1987, the year Nancy turned 50 and became a grandmother, she picked up filmmaking. 

“[I was] too old to go back to school, so I just decided the way to do it was to jump in and learn while doing it. And so that’s what I’ve done,” she said in a TV interview with Charlie Rose in 1996, after a short film she directed about one of her husband’s projects was up for a best documentary short Oscar. 

“And so you end up with a short that’s nominated for an Academy Award?” Rose asked in response. 

“That’s not too bad,” she said with a smirk. 

She and Jim separated a year later, after 40 years of marriage; they officially divorced in 2006. A lifelong advocate for women’s reproductive rights, she also served on the board of Planned Parenthood.

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