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Vija Celmins in "Time"

Patiently working at her easel, Vija Celmins dabs tiny speaks of paint on a canvas. The object of her attention is a starry night sky, an image that she has been painstakingly creating by applying paint, rethinking, sanding it off, and adding more.

“This is all part of the work,” she says, “in fact, I often now talk about building a painting.” A prolific artist with a long career, Celmins has created sculptures, paintings, drawings, and prints that find a timeless authenticity in natural forms from stones to waves and spider webs. “It’s like something unconsciously seeps into the work,” Celmins explains, discussing her attitude to the labor-intensive process she is well known for.

More information and credits


Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Assistant Curator: Wesley Miller. Production Manager: Alice Bertoni & Laura Recht. Production Coordinator: Kelly Shindler & Sara Simonson. Director of Education & Outreach: Jessica Hamlin. Producer: Catherine Tatge. Editor: Joanna Kiernan. Host Segment Artist: Charles Atlas. Host: Merce Cunningham. Director of Photography: Bob Elfstrom, Dean Head, Gary Henoch, Mead Hunt, Tom Hurwitz, Ken Kobland, William Rexer, Nancy Schreiber, & Joel Shapiro. Sound: Brian Buckley, Gautum Choudhury, Doug Dunderdale, Alex Lamm, Eric Leung, Mark Mandler, Juan Rodriguez, Jerry Stein, JT Takagi, Bill Wander, & Merce Williams. Gaffer/Grip: William Arbuckle, Eric Boland, Jeff Panessa, Ken Shibata, & Andrew Wilson. Assistant Camera: Jarred Alterman, Marie Chao, Brian Hwang, Steve Nealey, Kipjaz Savoie, & Tam Yong Xing. Host Make-Up: Joanne Nöél. Production Assistant: Ronny Merdinger, Jo-ey Tang, & Jesse Whittle-Utter. Assistant Avid Editor: Geoff Gruetzmacher, Jeremy Siefer, & Lynn True. Still Photographers: Alice Bertoni & Bob Elfstrom.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Graphic Design & Animation: Open, New York. Animation, Visual Effects & Compositing: Spontaneous Combustion. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie & Frame:Runner NYC. Composer: Peter Foley. Voice-Over Artist: Jace Alexander. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins, Greg Smith, & Dog Bark Sound. Sound Mix: Tony Volante & Soundtrack F/T. Animation Stand: Frank Ferrigno & Frame:Runner NYC.

Artworks courtesy of: Vija Celmins; Tim Hawkinson; Paul Pfeiffer; Martin Puryear; Ace Gallery; The Edward R. Broida Collection; MASS MoCA; McKee Gallery; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; & The Project, New York and Los Angeles. Archival footage courtesy of: Nancy Kelly &
TV Asahi Productions.

Special Thanks: ArtPace; The Art21 Board of Trustees; Asia Pacific Vision; Jamie Bennett; Cathy Blanchflower; Trevor Carlson; Maggie Choy; The Corcoran Gallery of Art; Cunningham Dance Foundation; Jeanne Englert; Tom James; Hiroko Kikuchi; Tim Lloyd; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; MIT List Visual Arts Center; Rashaad Newsome; Oliver Ranch; Paulson Press; Samantha Rippner; Susan Rogers; Masami Shiraishi; Tammie Tsang; Yumi Umemura; Whitney Museum of American Art; & Rebecca Wilhelms.

Interns: Sharon Ber, Elana Davidian, Eliza Geddes, Karmin Guzder, Ehren Joseph, Lisa Kalikow, Lila Kanner, Crystal Kui, Daniela Leonard, Ronny Merdinger, Parth Savla, Kristen Smith, Whitney Smith, Morgan Soloski, Jo-ey Tang, Asya Varshishky, Jesse Whittle-Utter, & Jeremy Zilar.

Public Relations: Kelly & Salerno Communications. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman. Bookkeeper: William Handy.

Major underwriting for Season 2 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Allen Foundation for the Arts, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Bloomberg, The Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation, Nonprofit Finance Fund, JPMorgan Chase, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, New York Arts Recovery Fund, Peter Norton Family Foundation, New York Times Company Foundation, Dorothea L. Leonhart Foundation, and Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Vija Celmins

Vija Celmins received international attention early on for her renditions of natural scenes—often copied from photographs that lack a point of reference, horizon, or discernable depth of field. Armed with a nuanced palette of blacks and grays, Celmins renders these limitless spaces—seascapes, night skies, and the barren desert floor—with an uncanny accuracy, working for months on a single image. Celmins has a highly attuned sense for organic detail and the elegance of imperfection. A master of several mediums, including oil painting, charcoal, and multiple printmaking processes, Celmins matches a tangible sense of space with sensuous detail in each work.

Read 1


Building Surfaces

Artist Vija Celmins discusses her methodology, inspiration, and the materiality of her work.

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