Vija Celmins was born in Latvia in 1938 and emigrated to the U.S. with her parents. They settled in Indiana where she attended the Herron School of Art. She moved to California to attend UCLA and graduated with an MFA in 1965. Her first solo exhibition was held the following year at David Stuart Galleries. Celmins’s early works depict commonplace objects such as lamps and heaters. Like her painting Freeway, some were drawn or painted from photographs, establishing a tension between mechanical reproduction and handmade craft, an aesthetic that would persist throughout her career.