Oral history interview with Vija Celmins

Collection ID:
Celmins, Vija, 1938-
Brown, Julia K., 1951-
2009 February 11-October 15
Physical Description:
45 Pages

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
An interview of Vija Celmins conducted 2009 February 11-October 15, by Julia Brown, for the Archives of American Art, at the Celmins' home and studio, in New York, New York.
Scope and Contents
Celmins speaks of her family's Latvian roots; experiencing World War II as a child; surviving and overcoming the trauma of World War II; the difficulties of being a refugee and moving to the United States; the influence of books on her imagination and art; expressing herself through drawing after moving to Indiana; learning English; studying art at the John Herron School of Art; attending summer school at Yale University; moving to California to obtain her MFA at UCLA; using art to grapple with and understand both her past and her emotions; experimenting with various mediums; discovering the pencil as an art material; the difficulties of printmaking; experimenting with abstraction and Pop art; deciding to drop painting and collage work; finding her own artistic philosophy and practices; her love of nature and its impact on her work; not conforming to the male-dominated, L.A. art scene; her decision to leave L.A. for NYC. Celmins also speaks about Tony Berlant, Chas Garabedian, Ed Ruscha, David Stuart, Philip Guston, Chuck Close, Willem de Kooning, Brice Marden, Joan Mitchell, Robert Irwin, and Jasper Johns.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Vija Celmins (1938- ) is a multimedia artist in New York, New York. Julia Brown (1951- ) is an independent scholar in San Antonio, Texas.

Existence and Location of Copies
Transcript is available on the Archive of American Art's website.
Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.

Originally recorded on 2 sound discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 5 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 33 min.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Multimedia (Art) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001