“People who’ve known me for a long time will say, ‘Don’t mess with her, don’t mess with Della,’” says Wells, 65, whose caustic ways yielded to generosity and directness long ago.
When she was 18 or 19, waiting for a bus at 4th and Garfield, though, she spotted The Gallery Toward the Black Aesthetic, a venue at the heart of the black art movement in Milwaukee at the time. Curious, she peered through the windows for weeks until one day someone stepped outside and invited her in.
That’s when a world of art opened for her — a first exposure to black and female artists.
“It never occurred to me that anyone besides white men made art,” says Wells, now a nationally recognized artist who was recently named one of two artists of the year by the City of Milwaukee along with poet Dasha Kelly.
Today, Wells routinely and rigorously returns the favor. She spends time each day inviting people to experience the work of African-American artists, especially women, through a voluminous outpouring of links and images on her Facebook page.
AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTIST, CONTEMPORARY FOLK ART
Wells has exhbited her work at various museums, galleries, art festivals and other venues throughout the United States, in British columber, and Italy. Some of the venues inlude the Hurn Museum of Contemporary Art, The John Michael Kholer Art Center, The Coastal Museum in South Carolina, The Museum of Wisconsin Art, The Milwaukee Art Musuem, The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Peltz Art Gallery, David Barnett Art Gallery, Walker Point Center for the Arts, Mark Wooley Gallery, Tag Gallery, Kentuck Art Festival, Magic City Art Festival, The Red Piano Too Art Gallery, Marcia Webber art Ojects, Milwaukee School of Art and Design, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Appleton Art Center, University of Wisconsin Union Art Gallery, Invoa, Main Street Art Gallery, Clayton Art Galler, The Outsider Art Show in New York, The Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Show with Artropois, Galerie BelAge, and van der Plas Gallery.
Milwaukee’s First Stage Children’s Theater commissioned playwirght Y York to create a ply inspired by Wells’ life and artwork. In 2010, York’s play “Don’t Tell Me I Can,t Fly” was selected to be read at the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices Festival in Washington D.C. The play is scheduled to debut in Milwaukee during Frist Stage Children’s Teater during their 2011-2012 season.
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