University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

University Housing


Miss Thang Went to the Party

by Della Wells


About the Work

Much of my artwork is centered around creating my own folklore. Much of the folklore that I create in my work is based on things thathave actually happened to me. “The Day Miss Thang Came To The Party” is reminiscent of my childhood memory when I idolized the beauty of my Aunt Doretha and later Robbie, the big sister of my friend. Both young women were beautiful and wore the most fabulous clothes. They were real life black Barbies. It was not until later in life that I realized that beauty is what beauty does, and that these two women had more going on for them than their physical beauty and fabulous clothes. They were also very smart and caring women. Thus, in my work “The Day Miss Thang Came To The Party”, the young girls are presenting the glamorous Miss Thang with various gifts representing knowledge and that this is the key that helps unlock true beauty. Miss Thang is all her fancy clothes and airs is very pleased that these young girls learn that crucial life lesson. And Miss Thang also hopes that young men learn this lesson too.


About the Artist

Born in 1951, self-taught artist Della Wells began seriously creating art at the age of 42. As a child, she made up stories and characters, based on her mother’s recollections of growing up in North Carolina during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. These recollections allowed Wells to escape the madness of her mother’s mental illness and her father’s rage while incorporating them to inspire the collage art she cre- ates today. Wells strongly feels that, “being a master of your spiritual self does not come until you understand where you came from.” Wells’ work can be seen at Milwaukee’s Peltz Gallery on 1119 East Knapp St. or at a variety of rotating exhibits throughout the year.
The Hurn Museum of Contemporary Folk Art considers Wells one of the leading African-American folk artists in the country. Wells is known for creating her old folklore in her work and using biting humor in her work. In 1994, she was the first African-American to have a solo exhibition at the David Barnett Gallery located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has exhibited at various galleries throughout the United States, British Columbia, and Italy. Her work is in over 100 private and corporate collections. An award winning artist, Wells work has appeared in various publications including Betty-Carol Sellen and Cynthia J. Johnason’s book “Self-Taught, Outsider, Folk Art Guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources,” 2000 ed., written by Betty-Carol Sellen and Cynthia J. Johnason. First Stage Children’s Theatre commissioned playwright Y. York to create a play inspired by Wells’ artwork and life. The play, “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Fly,” was selected to be read at Kennedy Center’s 2010 New Visions/Voices Festival. First Stage Children’s Theatre will debut the play during their 2011/2012 season.