Unseen Forces

Lost Library: Stella Waitzkin

March 8, 2018 — May 20, 2018

Aspects of the self, such as sentiment and meaning, accumulate in places. Meaningful places are integral to telling the story of who we are. Containing aspects that are less tangible than simply coordinates on a map, these places accumulate memories and relationships. They are where we form attachments, make connections, and establish the self.

Over the course of Stella Waitzkin’s (1920–2003) life, she accessed a wide range of communities, each tied to a particular place and each providing a unique set of experiences. She traversed the landscapes of a privileged upbringing in New York City, a suburban housewife, and ultimately a resident of the Hotel Chelsea where she mingled with artists, Beat writers, and jazz musicians. It was in this final location that Waitzkin defined her persona and created an art environment comprising a world all of her own.

Waitzkin was primarily interested in casting everyday objects, with a keen attention devoted to the cast-resin book. A lifelong lover of literature and words, she viewed language as pliable and not beholden to any one reality. Her casts rendered the books into forms devoid of their text. Her enigmatic library—rife with absent words, coded images, and hidden messages—ultimately allowed Waitzkin to cast her own narrative rooted in her identity as a woman, as an artist, and as a mother.

Several of the artist’s large-scale works from her Hotel Chelsea apartment environment anchor this exhibition, including The Wreck of the UPS and Details of a Lost Library. This presentation expands on the scope of work exhibited in the Arts Center’s 2017 series The Road Less Traveled.


This exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding was also provided by the Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, Kohler Foundation, Inc., and Sargento Foods Inc. The Arts Center thanks its many members for their support of exhibitions and programs through the year.