Vija Celmins
Vija Celmins was born in Riga, Latvia in 1938. She immigrated to the United States with her family when she was ten years old, settling in Indiana. She studied painting and printmaking at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis from 1955 to 1962, periodically traveling to New York City to see the work of the Abstract Expressionists. After graduating, she moved to California to pursue a Master’s Degree in Fine Art from UCLA. Her style was transformed in California as she rejected the ideas of the New York School and began to focus on the simplicity of her subject and her desire to communicate the artistic process. Her enthusiasm for photo-realism is evidenced in her paintings of the 1960s, based on photographs she took at the beach near her home in Venice, California and in the Mojave Desert. These photos inspired her to shift from painting to drawing, rendering in graphite the forms of ocean’s waves and the rocky desert. In the 1970s, she translated her meticulous style to three dimensions, casting found rocks in bronze and painting them to identically resemble the originals. Celmins moved to New York in 1981, where she started creating prints and drawings of constellations in the night sky and the surface of the moon. By the 2000s, she expanded her subjects of interest to include spider webs, rendering them in prints as well as charcoal and oil. She also returned to creating trompe l’oeil objects and surfaces, such as chalkboards. Celmins continues to produce paintings, drawings, and prints of these various subjects in her studio in Soho, New York. Celmins’ work has been exhibited in numerous museum and gallery exhibitions. The first retrospective of her work took place at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in 1992 and she has since received solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Menil Collection, Houston, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.