Della Wells – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Melon Sharers_2012, Media Collage.

The Melon Sharers_2012, Media Collage.

Briefly describe the work that you do.

I am a visual story teller. 

At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?

To be honest with you, I never gave much thought to being an artist. It was something I could do. There was always someone trying to convince me to do it, throughout my life. Finally after two years of artist Evelyn Terry trying to get me to create art, l went into Evelyn Terry’s studio and created three artworks. I have been doing it ever since. At the time it was very therapeutic for me.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I grew up with a lots of books and my mother had a mental illness. Because of books, cartoons and my mother’s stories I became interested in story telling. When I was a child I wanted to write fiction.

Girlfriend Night, 2012, Media, Collage

Girlfriend Night, 2012, Media, Collage

What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?

 I am sorry I don’t have an answer to that question. I know most people expect an artist to have an answer but I don’t.

We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?


Git Em Bunnies Outta Here Ida Mae, 2010, Media Collage

Git Em Bunnies Outta Here Ida Mae, 2010, Media Collage

What artists living or non-living influence your work?

Romare Bearden, Van Gough Kerry James Marshall, Picasso, Matise, Jeff Koons, Bettye Saar, Edward Lear and Jacob Lawrence.

When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in? 

Reading and spending time with my grandchildren and my niece and nephew. 8. Please list stop tags for your posts, location, medium, etc. I will be 63 this year and I don’t care about such things. 


28007169_dellaportraitDella Wells was born in 1951 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is a  self-taught artist. As a child, she made up stories and characters, many based on her mother’s recollections of growing up in North Carolina during the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. Wells used these stories to escape the madness of her mother’s mental illness and her father’s rage and eventually used them to inspire the collage art she creates today.

Wells feels strongly that “being a master of your spiritual self does not come until you understand from where you came from.” She incorporates her own folklore in her work which often has subtle symbols from the civil rights struggle. Wells’ work has appeared in various publications including Self Taught, Outsider and Folk art Guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources by Betty-Carol Sellen and Cynthia J. Johnanson.

In 2010 “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Fly” written by Y York and commissioned by First Stage Children’s Theater was selected to be workshopped and read at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Productions of the play have been done in Milwaukee Wisconsin, Nashville Tennessee and Charlotte North Carolina. Her work was also included as an  illustration for a book published by National Geographic. Wells’ work is exhibited in Europe, British Columbia and throughout the United States in folk art and outsider galleries from coast to coast.

Della and girls

Della and girls

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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