MacArthur Fellows Program

Vija Celmins

Painter and Sculptor | Class of 1997

Painter and Sculptor
New York, New York
59 at time of award

Vija Celmins is a painter and a sculptor of realistic and abstract creations.

Celmins' earliest works are matter-of-fact still lifes of ordinary household items that demonstrate an acute perception of physical detail, and the meticulous transmutation of this physicality from three dimensions to two.  In her early work, she used graphite on paper to render drawings of the surface of the moon and other vast subjects: the ocean, the night sky, and the desert.  Her canvases of the night sky and the ocean demonstrate subtle abstract variations.  Regardless of medium or subject, her intensity of observation and her rigorous transformation of physical reality into art (oscillating between concrete and abstract presentations) yield a powerful body of work.

Celmins lives and works in New York and California.  She has taught at numerous institutions, including the California Institute of the Arts (1966-77), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (1981), The Cooper Union (1984), and the Yale Graduate School (1987).  Retrospectives of her work have traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Celmins received a B.F.A (1962) from the John Herron Institute in Indianapolis, and an M.F.A. (1965) from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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