Materiality: Stella Waitzkin

January 15 – April 21, 2022


Materiality features a selection of works by Stella Waitzkin that were gifted to the Zillman Art Museum by the Waitzkin Memorial Library Trust and the Kohler Foundation. Waitzkin was a sculptor connected to the abstract expressionist movement in New York City, and who worked alongside Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning. The works in this exhibition are created from cast polyester resin and a number are on display for the first time. Waitzkin famously commented “all words are lies”, so it is paradoxical that the primary subject of her works were books. The artist’s sculpted books are unreadable slabs that seem to entrap narratives and ideas within the rough, translucent pages.

Additional recurring subjects in Waitzkin’s work are birds and clocks, both of which are represented in this exhibition. The rough surfaces and embedded materials, such as silk flowers and assorted fabric, evoke a feeling of uncomfortable nostalgia.  The act of casting these everyday objects in the hardened resin material bestows the work with a sort of quirky permanence. In fact, when viewed as isolated objects, one might find them to be somewhat like fossilized relics.

From the 1960s until the early 2000s, the artist lived in the legendary Chelsea Hotel; a hotbed of creativity for artists, musicians, and writers who were drawn to the bohemian spirit that permeated its walls. Waitzkin found inspiration in the various objects she collected. She created a mammoth tableau in her apartment by stacking her sculptures en masse. In an article, her son recounted: “Her entire place was a bedlam of sculpture and old books and wood, garbage, anything that she might make into art.” She was a collector and “put everything imaginable inside her books without words, religious icons, baby shoes, faces of animals. She once embedded a dead bird in one of her sculptures.”

Although Waitzkin’s sculpted books are without words, they invite contemplation. The eccentric forms and the objects embedded within contain unique moments in time that are memorialized by the artist.


two ceramic birds on a resin book

STELLA WAITZKIN (American, 1920 – 2003). Small Ornithology, ca. 1975. Cast resin and found objects. Gift of the Waitzkin Memorial Library Trust and The Kohler Foundation, Inc.

Press Release: STELLA WAITZKIN_PressRelease