Stella Waitzkin began as an abstract expressionist, and later studied painting with Hans Hofmann and life drawing with Willem de Koonig. She expanded from painting to sculpture, to performance art and film. After the 1930s, her primary subject was the book.
Stella cast old, leather-bound volumes as single objects and as elements of larger installations, including freestanding shelves, small bookcases, or entire library walls. These are magnificent pieces of art—colorful, translucent, and luminous. One of only a few female environment builders, Stella’s constructions are composed almost entirely of books, although she occasionally included “real” books in her libraries, or other cast objects such as clocks, birds, fruit, or human faces.
Her work has been widely exhibited in Europe and the U.S., and can be found in both public and private collections. Among them are the Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian, and the Walker Art Center.
Through the trustees of the Waitzkin Memorial Library Trust, Kohler Foundation acquired three "walls" to recreate Stella’s Chelsea Hotel living room where she worked and lived. After cleaning, documentation, and conservation treatment, the collection was installed to rave reviews in the Sublime Spaces and Visionary Worlds exhibit at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. The recreated environment is now in the collection of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. More than 100 additional works were added in 2016 to better recreate the sense of Stella's "west wall" in her Chelsea apartment.
The Waitzkin Memorial Library Trust and Kohler Foundation also made gifts of Stella Waitzkin’s art to numerous places, including: the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; the Chazen Museum in Madison, WI; the Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas – Austin; the Tweed Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota – Duluth; the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University Center for the Arts; the Lyman Allyn Art Museum; the University of Maine Museum of Art; the Robert Hull Fleming Museum at The University of Vermont; the Smith College Libraries; the Tang Museum at Skidmore College; the University at Albany SUNY; New Mexico State University; The University of Arizona Museum of Art; Alverno College; the Gregg Museum of Art and Design; the University of Connecticut; the University of North Carolina; the Asheville Art Museum; Binghamton University; Davis Art Museum; Wellesley College; the Delaware Art Museum; the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Syracuse University; and the Tucson Museum of Art.