Born in New York City in1907, ALTINA SCHINASI SANDERS BARRETT CAREY MIRANDA was brought up in the “circumscribed world” created by the wealth of her father, Moussa Schinasi, a Turkish immigrant to the United States and the inventor of the cigarette-rolling machine. A changeling, over the course of her nine-plus decades, Miranda became a sculptor, filmmaker, entrepreneur, mother, window dresser, designer and inventor. Though she would continue to register patents for inventions until late in life, her great breakthrough came early on when she created and marketed the Harlequin eyeglass frame that defined glamour in the late 1930s. In 1939, Miranda won the Lord & Taylor Annual American Design Award for her avant-garde transformation of the eyeglass frame into a proper fashion accessory. A walk down the street occasioned this design breakthrough; finding herself underwhelmed by the lackluster frames in an optician’s window, Mrs. Miranda set out to create a frame that conveyed whimsy, mystery and romance. Once she had set up production and negotiated deals with department stores, she opened an office where she oversaw marketing and distribution, until the next creative project called.

In hopes of spending more time on her art, Miranda sold her eyeglass concern and moved west to Los Angeles, where she studied at the Jepson School of Art. Altina had been a committed student of art all her life, and she chose to go to art school rather than college to study with painters, Rene Bensussan in Paris, and George Grosz at The Art Students League of New York. However, the move away from her business and New York allowed for a new level of commitment to her art. “I took a room in the house as my studio and put a sign on the door: ‘Do not come in unless there’s a catastrophe.’’’ In the end, a life defined by her spectacular imagination may have been Miranda’s greatest invention, with every achievement seemingly unrelated to the ones before. Looking at a photograph of unoccupied chairs by Cartier Bresson, Miranda was inspired to combine the function of the seat with the form of the sitter. She called these fantastic chairs and benches Chairacters. Her Chairacters would be featured on the cover of The Los Angeles Times Magazine. During the California years, Miranda conceptualized and produced George Grosz’ Interregnum, a short film. Grosz, the anti-Nazi artist and Miranda’s former teacher, the subject of the Academy Award nominated documentary, won First Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Miranda continued to paint and sculpt, eventually establishing herself in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she married her fourth husband, painter Celestino Miranda, and lived the final years of her illustrious life.







A Film by Altina Carey
Narrated by Lotte Lenya
Photographed by Terry Sanders


Jessica SpiveyM