Born in Latvia, artist Vija Celmins fled to Germany in 1944. Four years later, her family moved to Indianapolis. She didn’t speak English—so she turned her attention to drawing. After earning her MFA from UCLA, she kept a studio in Venice, California, going on long walks by the ocean, taking photographs and keeping a diary of her observations. This oceanside environment would also become her artistic muse. 

 Vija Celmins, American, b. Latvia 1939, Untitled, 1995, Wood engraving, Purchase, 1995 (25605), © Vija Celmins, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery


Vija Celmins, American, b. Latvia 1939,
Untitled, 1995,
Wood engraving,
Purchase, 1995 (25605), © Vija Celmins, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Her prints, including this untitled engraving from 1995, evolved from drawings in graphite and charcoal. Lacking a clearly defined focal point, these all-over compositions feature endless expanses of star-filled galaxies, ripples on the ocean surface, or rocky deserts. Celmins’ works are exactingly detailed and appear to record everything precisely sans exaggeration within a prescribed field of vision—as a camera would do. 

Although small in scale, the piece on display in Making Waves captures a sense of the depth and density of a vast ocean. Take a moment to stand in front of Celmins work and contemplate the seemingly limitless expanse of the natural world.

Making Waves is on view until March 31.