By Vija Celmins and Eliot Weinberger
The New York artist Vija Celmins has made many images of the night sky—paintings, drawings, and prints of gorgeous richness. In The Stars she and the essayist Eliot Weinberger devote an artist's book to the theme. Celmins has created three prints for the project: one print, inspired by the worn binding of an early-twentieth-century Japanese book, becomes the volume's mottled deep-blue cover. The second is a negative image of the night sky—dark stars on a pale ground. The third etching suggests an open screen composed of sky and stars. For the text, Weinberger has assembled a catalogue of descriptions of the stars drawn from around the world, and from an array of historical, literary, and anthropological sources. This mythopoetic charting of the night sky evokes the vastness of the human imagination's response to a space itself vast and unknowable.
Vija Celmins's paintings, drawings, and prints have been collected by The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Musee national d'art moderne, Paris; and others. Born in Latvia, she now lives in New York. Eliot Weinberger's books of essays include Karmic Traces, Outside Stories, and What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles. Among his many translations are the Collected Poems of Octavio Paz and the Selected Non-Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. He is the editor of the New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry. He lives in New York.
Appearing in English and also in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, and Maori, the text supplements Celmins's images visually as well as verbally. The translators of the text are the Iraqi novelist Sinan An Toon (Arabic), the poet Bei Dao (Chinese), the translator and author Siddharth Chowdury (Hindi), the translator, author, and editor Hiroako Sato (Japanese), and the translator and Maori-language advocate Piripi Walker (Maori).