Vija Celmins

Biography

The Latvian-American artist, Vija Celmins, was born in 1938. She moved to the United States at age 10 when her family immigrated to Indiana after World War II. Celmins received her M.F.A. in 1965 from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her most recognizable compositions are executed in the photo-realist style and include aquatic and terrestrial imagery. 

Clemins was friends with and influenced by the work of artists Chuck Close and Brice Marden whom she met while attending summer study sessions at Yale University. Although she was initially influenced by Pop Art, Clemins began copying photographs of nature by hand with graphite pencil. Many critics have drawn comparison between Clemins and that of Gerhard Richter’s photorealist works. Over the course of her career Clemins has worked with various materials including charcoal, oil, and various printing processes. The precise technique by which Celmins executes her compositions is outstanding. Her most recent works focus on specific imagery of nighttime skies, deserts, and the ocean but continue to employ her photorealist style.

Retrospectives of Celmins works have been held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, New York; Tate Modern in London, England; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California.  She has been the recipient of numerous awards including an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award (1996), a Fellow Award in the Visual Arts from United States Artists (2009), and the Roswitha Haftmann Prize (2009). Celmins is currently living and working in New York City.