Touching Frank Stella

Dana Simon is standing in front of large metal painting that is of a curved shape

The Whiteness of the Whale, 1987

From the Moby Dick series, swirls of color painted on aluminum, each painting in this series is inspired from a chapter in the novel Moby Dick.

On a cold December morning, I got up early to join the Verbal and Touch tour of Frank Stella’s Retrospective at the Whitney Museum. As a young artist I had last seen Frank Stella’s work in the 1980’s at the Museum of Modern Art. I was inspired by his brilliant colors and the sculptural effects in his paintings, which I also used in my own artwork.

Danielle Linzer, Director of Access and Community Programs, and our knowledgeable educator described several of the major works that were part of our tour including a work from his minimalist period, called “black paintings”. Since these paintings are black paint on a white ground with a very simple and high contrast pattern, I was able to see parts of the work. Frank Stella’s work is abstract, and over the years he moved from minimalist art to a more abstract expressionist work. Frank Stella sees his work as paintings, even though his work is very sculptural. Though Frank Stella adds three dimensional forms that create relief, and extend past the rectangular shape of the canvas, His work still uses paint to create a composition or overall pattern of swirls and shapes.

Woman holding a larger spiral shape.

Here Dana Simon is holding one of Frank Stella’s “smoke rings” this is made with 3-D printing and is based on the swirls of smoke that comes from his cigar.

Frank Stella donated many touch objects for our verbal tour, and he has shown interest in artists with disabilities in the past. Years ago, I entered my artwork Yellow Sheets in a juried show, titled Call to Rise. where Stella was one of the jurors. This show was organized by Very Special Arts, and traveled to several museums. To learn more about the Whitney Museum Verbal and Touch Tours click Whitney Verbal and Touch Tours.


Fragments of body parts, including life casts of faces and breasts and buttocks, of a man and a woman are tangled up in a painted image of bright yellow sheets, with colorful pillows painted at the top.

Yellow Sheets. Life casts, wood, acrylic on canvas. 66” x 90”, copyright 1987 by Dana Simon.


  1. Nancy Clark

    So interesting, Dana. Thank you for sharing. Isn’t that a Simon I see on the same page?

    1. dana2art (Post author)

      Thanks! Yes Nancy, that is my painting “Yellow Sheets” at the bottom of the article.

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