Between the years 1985 and 1993, Frank Stella produced a vast number of works inspired by Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, including Moby Dick Domes. The works are included within series such as The Waves, The Waves II and Moby-Dick Domes. Stella’s fascination with the novel spans various mediums, from collage and print to aluminum sculpture. In total, there are 138 artworks, each corresponding to a chapter within Moby-Dick. Upon first glance, it is clear that these works represent a departure from Stella’s earlier minimalist style. Often, geometric forms curve and swirl, layered in collage form. The colors are incredibly vibrant and add to the illusion of multiple dimensions.

In order to understand Stella’s works, it is imperative to understand the significance of the Moby-Dick. Melville’s novel details a nautical journey led by Ahab, a one-legged ship captain. Ahab’s main ambition is to kill Moby Dick, the whale who devoured his leg. As such, death, fate and ambition are central themes to the novel. At once, it is possible to imagine the drama that unfolds in this journey. The drama within the novel played a great part in his vision for the Moby Dick works. In an interview, Stella explained “I think the Moby Dick series [1986-1997] is a kind of turning point. I was a little afraid, and probably still am a little, with Moby Dick, but the pictures [are] essentially curved surfaces. They started to really move, and the novel moves; you’re going around the world, it’s pretty wet, there are a lot of waves and motion (Pobric)." In this manner, Stella creates a visual narrative as powerful as its original textual form.

Rather than create literal depictions of the chapters, Stella astounds viewers by envisioning the soul of the novel. Each of the works derives its title from a chapter in Melville's classic novel. Stella captures the essence of the piece of narrative that each respective chapter describes using various printmaking techniques. With large swooping abstract forms, bold line and color, and a particularly masterful artistic hand, the artist creates an impressive number of works that evoke a grand sense of whimsy, drama, and intensity. The works are massive in size, which further expresses the drama and potence of the original text.