Since the late 1960s, Celmins has created highly detailed paintings and drawings inspired by unusual views of nature. Using a photograph as a starting point, in a palette of grays, white, and black she depicts expansive visions of oceans, deserts, and galaxies on a small scale. Her work, like that of contemporaries Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter, is well crafted and labor intensive.
Despite her unapologetically traditional dedication to illusionistic representation, Celmins's works are not traditional landscapes; nor are they romantic explorations of the sublime. Her elimination of a horizon line renders her visions thoroughly modern. Without this visual guide, these realistic depictions are ambiguous from a distance, and as a result they can seem abstract. When the viewer does register the subject matter — an infinite view of the ocean or, in this case, a comet moving across a starlit galaxy — the absence of a horizon line creates a sense of floating, over the ocean or out in space. The drawing's photographic origin can no longer be traced.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 161.