Vija Celmins
Suspended Plane, 1966

Based on a found photograph of a World War II American B-26 bomber, Celmins’s haunting painting is cool and detached, yet highly charged with personal subject matter. The artist, who fled her native Latvia during World War II and subsequently immigrated to the United States, describes this painting as being “colored by the chaos of my early childhood in the war.” Not insignificantly, she painted the bomber during the Vietnam War.

Suspended Plane is also significant because it is among the earliest examples of Celmins’s career-long practice of painting from photographs. This method inserts a layer of distance between artist and canvas, and appealed to Celmins as a more authentic way of painting than the then-dominant, and seemingly exhausted, model of Abstract Expressionism. The work, marked by a remarkable degree of verisimilitude, even retains the original photograph’s signs of aging.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Suspended Plane
Artist name
Vija Celmins
Date created
oil on canvas
18 × 28 in. (45.7 × 71.1 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchase, by exchange, through the bequest of Elise S. Haas
© Vija Celmins
Permanent URL
Artwork status
On view on floor 5 as part of Afterimages: Echoes of the 1960s in the Fisher and SFMOMA Collections.

Other Works by Vija Celmins

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