|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Vija Celmins is a California painter who experimented with photo-realism and explored graphite as an expressive medium. |
was born in Riga, Latvia in 1938, and in 1944 moved with her family to
Germany where they settled in a Latvian refugee camp near Esslinger.
The Celmins family then immigrated to the United States in 1948 and
made their home in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Vija studied at the
John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, and often made trips to New
York City with her friends to see the artwork of the Abstract
Expressionists. She continued to study at the John Herron Art Institute
from 1955 to 1962. During the summer of 1961 she attended summer school
at Yale University, and it was then that Celmins decided to become a
painter. She moved to California in 1963 to study at the University of
California, Los Angeles where she received a Master's Degree in Fine
Art. After graduating she became an instructor of painting and drawing
at University of California, Los Angeles for one year.
style began to change in California. She rejected the ideas of the New
York School (abstract expressionists) of artists and began to focus on
the simplicity of her subjects. She painted everyday objects that were
present in her living environment, and some of her earliest works were
based on items such as a comb, a lamp, fans and a hotplate. Celmins was now
interested in the process itself, not the meaning of the object. The
object only represented a form to her, it existed without character or
meaning. Her artwork developed out of her desire to communicate the
artistic process, and shows elements of Pop Art as well as Photo-Realism.
These works were followed by a series of US and German World War II airplanes such as her painting Suspended Plane,
1966, which depicts a B-17 bomber, and which was added to the
collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2006.
These subjects represent her war experiences, which she described as
"colored mostly by the chaos of my early childhood in the war...I
relived all these things---the burning houses, the airplanes, the
Latvian school in Germany, my eraser, my little pencils." (Antiques 9)
In the 1960's she incorporated Photo-Realism
into her art by painting replicas of the photographs she took. She
often took pictures while she was driving to work or walking along the
beach near her home in Venice Beach, California. She lived in that area
between 1962 and 1980 while she attended the University of California,
Irvine (1967-1972), and the California Institute of the Arts in
Valencia, California (1976-1977). She examined the construction of the waves, and in
her paintings recreated them through layers of paint and small marks
carefully plotted to imitate light and shadow. Celmins also painted
desert landscapes and started a series of paintings based on the
constellations of the night sky. These were studies in natural space,
abandoning color and absent of human life.
Shortly after completing her airplane series, Velmins stopped painting
for two decades, from 1966 to 1985, so that she could focus on drawing
from her photographs with graphite and acrylic. When she returned
to painting again, she did many images of the night sky and spider webs.
Her varied works
have been exhibited at numerous galleries and museums, among them;
Dickenson Art Center, University of California Los Angeles (1965),
David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles (1966), David McKee Gallery, New
York (1983, 1988, 1992), and the Institute of Contemporary Art,
Charlotte Rubinstein, American Women Artists
Editor, "SFMOMA Acquires Vija Celmins' Plane", Antiques and the Arts Weekly, 3/31/2006, p. 9
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|
Vija Celmins is also mentioned in these AskART essays: