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Vija Celmins Biography

Vija Celmins is a Latvia-born artist who works in several mediums, including printmaking, charcoal, and oil painting. She arrived in the US aged 10, speaking no English, and found art as a way she could express herself without needing words. Early in her career, in the early 1960s, Celmins created several pop sculptures and representational paintings, including monochromatic panels. Much of her work reflects the photo-realistic, abstract, and minimalist styles, and nature and natural phenomena are themes depicted in many of her pieces. She painted a huge range of environments, from rocks to stars, from spider webs to the sea. She is well-known for focusing on organic details and embracing natural imperfection.

Vija Celmins earned her Bachelor of Fine arts degree from the John Herron Institute, and she received her Masters’ of Fine Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur fellowship (otherwise known as ‘the genius grant’) and a 1996 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. The work of Vija Celmins is currently on display in numerous fine arts museums across the United States and Europe, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou in Paris, and Kunstmuseum Winterthur in Switzerland.

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