Della Wells' art empowers Black women, explores race

The great thing about art is it always tells a story. 

"If you see flowers in my work that is really about the soul blooming," Milwaukee artist Della Wells said. "I think 'who is the main character? The protagonist? What am I trying to say?"

From pillow dolls to large-scale paintings and vibrant collages, Della Wells conveys a lot through her purposeful and colorful artwork. 

"All my work, regardless of what medium I do, is about Black women," Wells said. "I created this magical land called Mambo Land, where Black women rule and are very powerful."

The strong women are in a fantasy world but influenced by the women who shaped her. 

"A lot of the times, women, people of color, if you have mental illness, whatever," she said. "You’re perceived as being different. People try to take your power away."

Della Wells

Della Wells' work pushes back. 

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"It’s always been powerful, but in the last few years it feels like it has come into its own in a way that is undeniably important," Debra Brehmer said. Brehmer owns the Portrait Society Gallery in the Third Ward, where a collection of her collages is on display. 

"Every time I pick up a new piece that she’s done or a group of new work, they’re fresh. There is a different story being told," Brehmer said. 

Debra Brehmer

Wells began her journey as an artist at age 42. She turns 71 at the end of February and is committed to developing art on her own terms. 

"I really want to do what I want in terms of what I want to create," Wells said. "If people like it, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s OK too."

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Della Wells uses life experiences and race to help tell stories. It has allowed her to build a vibrant and celebrated career. 

"Just believe in yourself. Believe."


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