Della Wells

The Drowning of Brother Tony, 1998
Pastel on paper, signed
22.25 x 30 in
SKU: 10151g
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"The Drowning of Brother Tony" is an original pastel drawing on paper by Della Wells. The artist signed the piece in the lower right. In this pastel, an alligator-like creature with an African American child's head thrashes about in the water, upsetting the tiny boat pictured at left and causing the black figure on the lower right to drown. Another female black figure, straddling the alligator's tail, attempts to save Tony, but to no avail. Two open eyes appear in the picture: the alligator seems to clutch one and the other appears on the boat's sail. The alligator holds a pice of melon in his mouth and colorful fish populate the water and sky. Alligators reference Jim Crow caricatures in which black children are chased and eaten by alligators. The alligators are menacing and point to a deeply racist pictorial and real world. The eye represents the all-seeing eye of God that represents truth.

22 1/4" x 30" art
33 1/2" x 41" frame

Born in 1951, Della Wells grew up in Milwaukee. As a child and young person, she did not want to become an artist but a storyteller; to this day she considers herself to be a "visual storyteller." Wells is a self taught artist who was attending college to become a psychologist when she was assigned to write about a professional person. She chose an artist, who remembered that Wells had the ability to draw. The artist kept encouraging Wells, who starting drawing and painting seriously at age 42. She has said, "I didn't do anything for a long time, because I didn't think I had anything to say. You can draw, you may now how to do things technically, but I think to be a true artist you have to have something to say. You have to have a vision." Her creative process stems from her personal experiences and her works are often inspired by her troubled childhood. She also uses her studies in psychology, sociology, African American and women's studies to shape ideas for her work. Known for her collages, drawings, dolls, paintings, and pastels, Well created a magical land called "Mambo" populated and ruled primarily by black women. Wells has been successful in "outsider art" venues, including the Outsider Art exhibition in New York. Wells' art is exhibited in more than 100 private and public collections. Her work was purchased by the Smithsonian. Her collages are sold at the National Museum of African American History and culture.