Letters from Frank Stella (c.1964)

Dear Barbara,

At last we arrived in Nothing the very large dismal capital of Nowhere. The people are really very reserved + probably very sweet if they ever get out of their catatonic state, but they are poor + apparently beyond hope if they ever even had an idea of what that is. The children are very beautiful and heart wrenching. The thing I keep seeing + find hardest to forget is the dirty ______ of dried tears on the children’s faces. They cry and whimper briefly. Then they hug either their parents or the gutter.

Every morning I wake up with basically the same nightmare. I have gone off somewhere + done something when I suddenly remember that I have left Rachel alone. By the time I reach home hopelessly panicked she has managed to get out of the crib and smash her head on the bathroom tub. I pick her up and look at the dried tears and then wake up. The motif everywhere conscious, unconscious, + subconscious seems to be dried tears. I guess it really suits this trip. Everything here is dry + dead + the only hope for life is the water which dries up very quickly. I ______ the conclusion from this that Nature is inadequate here + everyone else seems to draw the same conclusion. The only alternative that Nature provides is oil. The 20th century west has made do handsomely with it, but the Iranians still find it __________. Unless they can learn to develop ______ for oil rather than water they are doomed.


Sahara Hotel
Kerman, Iran
Phone, 3221

Dear Barbara,

I managed to get enough diarrhea to get 1 day behind the Woodwards. Henry, my friend, nursed me through the ordeal. He is getting the Florence Nightingale award from Farah Diba.

We stayed in the Ex Point 4 guest house in Yazd. There was one good Mosque in Yazd with a very good bold geometric inside dome. The only other interesting thing there were the Zoroastrian fire temples but we couldn’t [get] inside them. We did, however, get a good look at the outside of the Towers of Silence (_________) on the edge of Town. It is on these towers that the Zoroastrians expose their dead to the sun. What happens, of course, is that the vultures come down + pick them apart. The moslems think that this is pretty disgusting. Since we were a day late getting into Yazd, I didn’t have much time in the Bazaar which is famous for its textiles. If I had a little more money I could have got some pretty interesting fabrics, as it was I got you 3 yds. of some nice rayon that purports to be silk. It should make a nice blouse.

We have been in Kerman half a day and have seen the major or community mosque + a _________ tomb just outside the city. They weren’t too interesting. I’m getting pretty tired of Islamic art. It’s very lacking in crisis content. The design of the tile patterns is interesting up to a point, but the way the different sections are plastered on the facades is not interesting. The color gets to be the same nearly everywhere. I would say that finally even in the best works, say at Isfahan + Yazd, the architecture + the decoration never get together. The best that happens is that you are stunned by the size + complexity of the tile work + are finally only really convinced by the interior spatial organization of the architecture. This added to some high moments of decorative invention, however, makes for some visual beauty that the west will never see.
xxxx Frankie

Letters from Frank Stella, from the Barbara Rose papers at the Getty Research Institute.