Mental Floss

"Art has given me my life": Frank Stella

Andréa Fernandes

At the request of reader Corrine, today's "Feel Art Again" features Frank Stella, who celebrates his 73rd birthday today. The American artist is both a painter and a sculptor whose works include "The Duel (Der Zweikampf) F (N#8)," a 2001 painting (above).

"I've had so many children and wives."

Frank Stella has fathered five children with two wives and a girlfriend. Stella married his first wife, Barbara Rose, a well-known art critic, in 1961, but they separated just 8 years later. Harriet McGurk, his second wife, is a pediatrician.

"Theoretically it's like a painting on a shaped canvas."

Back in 1976, Stella was asked to participate in the second installment of the BMW Art Car Project, painting a BMW 3.0 CSL. Despite his long and varied career, the BMW art car is one of his works for which he is most well known. According to Stella, "The idea for mine was that it's from a drawing on graph paper. The graph paper is what it is, a graph, but when it's morphed over the car's forms it becomes interesting"¦"

"Everyone loves labial references in anyone's work."

Stella's paintings and sculptures can be classified as minimalist or abstract. His works are usually geometric and often contain "layered, curving forms." When asked by a reporter from The New York Times if he discerned any labial imagery in his work, Stella replied, "I'm not going to deny that it's there. I'm not going to deny that I live in the world and that I have had distant relations with women. You know, my father was a gynecologist."

"I don't like to say I have given my life to art. I prefer to say art has given me my life."

Stella has spent his entire adult life in the art world, beginning in his undergraduate years at Princeton. In 1970, he became the youngest artist ever to receive a retrospective at NYC's Museum of Modern Art; he was just 34 years old. Three years later, he installed a print studio in his home to work more easily. By 2004, he had become one of the 10 most expensive living artists, according to Art News Magazine.

A larger version of "The Duel (Der Zweikampf) F (N#8)" is available here. Fans should check out Stella at the Leslie Sacks gallery; the collections of Stella's work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (set 1, set 2), the SFMOMA, and the Brooklyn Museum; SFMOMA's interactive feature; Stella on PBS; Stella's BMW art car (video); and this Christie's auction for an untitled 1961 Stella painting. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists.