Della Wells

Untitled (She has SWEN All her life)
Ink and marker on paper
7.88 x 10.50 in
SKU: 14154c
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"Untitled (She has SWEN All Her Life)" is an original ink and marker on paper from 1996 by Della Wells. It is signed near the bottom lower right. The picture has a variety of Wells iconography in it: eyes (the all-seeing eye of God); fish (Christian symbol referring to Jesus feeding the multitudes); stars (representing the shining soul); and flowers (signifying a rebirth of the soul) to name a few. The text in the work reads: "She has SWEN All Her Life ... attitude, ingenuity, and endurance."

Minor creases at lower and upper right corners, alien pigments at edges.

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.” She attended MATC and UWM, where she studied African American Studies and Women’s Studies. She sold her first work of art at age 13, but she did not begin working as an artist until she was 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 know 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. Known for her collages, drawings, dolls, paintings, and pastels, Wells has created a magical land called “Mambo” populated and ruled primarily by black women. Wells is a self-taught artist and her work has been successful in “outsider art” venues, including the Outsider Art exhibition in New York. 

Wells’ art is in more than 100 private and public collections and it has been exhibited in the United States and Europe. She was one of two recipients of the City of Milwaukee’s Artist of the Year Award for 2016. In 2021 her work was introduced at Untitled (Art Basel) Miami. Wells’ art 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 and Permission to Paint Please: A 150 Year History of African American Artists in Wisconsin by Evelyn Patricia Terry. A play about her life, Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Fly, was written for performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. She has illustrated two children’s books. Her work has been purchased by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her collages are sold at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.