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 C. J. Wells  (1952 - )

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/Arizona / Mexico      Known for: Indian warrior portrait painting

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Ad Code: 4
C J Wells
An example of work by C. J. Wells
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from American Design Ltd.:
C.J. Wells uses strong colors and bold compositions in her paintings to reveal her personal vision of the American Indian of a people torn between the past and the present.  She states, "It's very difficult to paint without a model, but many of these people come right out of my head."

Working out of a studio that is fragrant with turpentine and linseed oil that she refers to as "my favorite smells," she vibrates with the music of Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mozart, and produces dramatic oil paintings, lithographs, and monotypes that not only focus on Indian themes, but on landscapes and portraits as well.

A strong colorist, she uses her palette in an expressive and symbolic sense, rather than in a representational manner.  "I call myself a 'motivist,' " Wells explains, "because my moods and motives are the real key to understanding my art.  When I'm in a dark mood or a spiritual mood, I paint my warriors in a dark environment. Sometimes my paintings come from a sense of outrage at injustice, or a sense of beauty, or some other strong feeling."

Wells is perhaps best-known for her Warrior Series paintings.  She describes the figures in those paintings as visions, the synthesis of many warriors from many times: "These figures manifest themselves so strongly from the mists of time, that I am not aware of anything but the act of painting, and the revelation of the warrior spirit. C.J. Wells, at that point, is nonexistent."

The prototypes for the Warrior Series began with paintings of Navajos, when Wells was working in Los Angeles, and took a decade to evolve into what they are today. "After the Navajos," she recalls, "I changed to Plains Indians because they were more intriguing to me. I felt like they were coming straight from my soul.  I was also trying to convey something very internal that I couldn't articulate."  Yet Wells tired of the work she was doing and prayed for help -- help to paint something beautiful. "That's when I started with the yellow eyes and added the white dots," she recounts. "Then background and skin tones became more translucent."

Wells was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and studied art at UCLA and at Eastern College in Billings, Montana.  Before turning her energies solely to her art, she explored other avenues -- working with an architectural firm, writing songs and singing -- but during each of those experiences, Wells continued to paint in her spare time.

Today Wells has made art her profession, exhibiting her works throughout the country and earning many awards, including first prize in the Santa Monica American Indian Art Show and Exhibit, and special distinction at the Native American Center for the Living Arts in New York.  Her works are in numerous private and public collections, such as the Institute of American Indian Art Museum in Santa Fe.

"I paint for forever, not just for today," declares Wells. "I want to be a great artist. I want people to be proud to say, 'I have a C.J. Wells in my collection,' I want to do more landscapes, more children, horses, cowboys -- I want to do everything. I want to die, preferably at an old age, with a brush in my hand. There's nothing more thrilling to me than to have a clean white canvas in front of me and to fill it with something beautiful."


Biography from Cooper's Art Gallery & Brokerage:
• Native American Heritage – Arikara
• Born & Raised in Santa Fe
• Principal works are oil on canvas.

• Studied art at UCLA and Eastern College in Billings.

• C.J. uses strong colors and bold composition in her paintings to reveal her personal vision of the Native Americans torn between the past and the present. Her portraits of Native American warriors and children often depict her subjects with glowing “yellow eyes” signifying traditional respect for the “holiness of the Earth and animals”.

• “The prototypes for the Warrior Series began with paintings of Navajos when I was working in Los Angeles, and took a decade to evolve into what they are today. After Navajos, I changed to Plains Indians because they were more intriguing to me. I felt like they were coming straight from my soul.”

• Her work has been featured in Taos Magazine, which observed “Her images have an abstract, timeless quality. Each has an elegant, aristocratic presence surrounded by mystery and drama.”

• She has also been featured in…
2008 Featured cover artwork for Art-Talk
1991 Southwest Profile (June, July, and August)
1989 Sunstorm Arts Magazine, December, 5-page spread
1987 Southwest Profile, July, 4-page spread
1984 Featured in Architectual Digest
1981 Four Winds(Winter Issue)
1981 Southwest Profile, June, July, August

• Wells spent fourteen years in Scottsdale before returning to Santa Fe in 2001 at the time of her father’s death.

• Her work won First Prize in the Santa Monica American Indian Art Show & Exhibit. Her work was also given a special distinction at the Native American Center for the Living Arts in New York.

• Her work is exhibited at the Institute of American Indian Art Museum, the Scottsdale Symphony, the Native American Center for the Living Arts, and is a part of significant private collections, including those of Sylvester Stalone and Robert Redford.

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