Bornstein, Eli (1922-)

Eli Bornstein, artist and educator, was born on December 28, 1922, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He received a BSc from the Milwaukee State Teachers' College in 1945, after briefly studying at the Art Institute in Chicago in 1943. He was an instructor at the Milwaukee Art Institute from 1943 to 1947, and taught design at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 1949. He was appointed head of the new Department of Fine Arts at the University of Saskatchewan in 1950. During summer breaks from his university commitments, Bornstein studied at art academies in Paris and completed an MSc at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1954. He resigned as head of Fine Arts in 1971, but continued to teach art at the University of Saskatchewan until his retirement in 1990.

Bornstein is best known for the three-dimensional structurist reliefs that he started doing in 1957. His previous drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures were based on nature but used abstract and cubist techniques. His first commission was for “Growth Motif,” an abstract welded aluminum sculpture for the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation in 1956. During a sabbatical spent in Italy and Holland in 1957, Bornstein experimented with reliefs; the works progressed in complexity using colour, form, and space, with multiplaned bases which create varying shadows as the light changes. Major works are now in the International Air Terminal in Winnipeg (1962), the Wascana Centre Authority building in Regina (1982), and on the Canadian Light Source Building in Saskatoon (2004). Bornstein has had solo and group shows in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Several private and public galleries include his work.

In 1960 Bornstein founded the journal The Structurist, which reflects his interdisciplinary interest in the artist as builder using the forms and processes of science, technology, and nature. Since its inception, the journal has appeared annually or biannually. Each issue of the journal is focused on a theme such as Continuity and Connectedness, Transparency & Reflection, or the Artist. Bornstein is particularly interested in nature and ecological themes.

Bob Ivanochko

Further Reading

Karpuszko, K. 1982. Eli Bornstein: Selected Works/Oeuvres Choisies, 1957-1982. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery.