About This Artwork

Vija Celmins
American, born Latvia, 1938

Night Sky #2, 1991

Alkyd on canvas mounted on aluminum
45.7 x 54.6 cm (18 x 21 1/2 in.)

Ada S. Garrett Prize Fund, 1995.240

In the mid-1960s, Vija Celmins began using photographs from books, magazines, and newspapers that she found at secondhand stores and yard sales as the point of departure for her paintings. Her exacting depictions of such expansive subjects as desert floors, ocean waves, the moon’s surface, and star-studded night skies—the latter derived from American and Russian satellite photographs of galaxies—are far from panoramic, as might suit these immense themes. Resulting from the artist’s interest in the illusionistic process of image making, these easel-size pictures invite intimacy while remaining mysterious. To create her smooth, velvety surfaces, Celmins often applies multiple layers of pigment, sanding each down before adding the next. A painterly metaphor for the stillness of space, Night Sky #2 is at once romantic and unsettling in its shimmering suggestion of vastness.

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