Cady Wells: Ruminations presents watercolor paintings from one of the Southwest’s most interesting modernists. Previously shown at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, OK, Ruminations explores the dynamic and psychologically penetrating watercolor paintings of Cady Wells (1904-1954). This group of more than 22 works all drawn from the museum’s collection features Wells’ uniquely modernist interpretations of Southwestern landforms and cultural-religious traditions. Tracing the trajectory of Wells’s compelling painting career from the 1930s through the 1950s this exhibition illustrates how his style evolved from cubist-inspired explorations of the regional landscape to haunting and jewel-like expressions of surrealism.
Born to a traditional, well-to-do New England family, Wells settled in northern New Mexico beginning in 1932. There, his art took on the complex layering of a spirit inspired by music, calligraphy and stained glass, but also deeply traumatized by active combat in World War II as well as sexual intolerance. He was plagued for years by his experience of atrocities during World War II and his fear of contamination from atomic experiments at Los Alamos, just miles from his studio. In New Mexico, Wells found communities that provided fertile ground for his artistic and personal development. Painter Andrew Dasburg served as a mentor for Wells as he continued developing his distinctive approach to watercolor. Georgia O’Keeffe was both friend and colleague. In a catalogue essay on Wells, O’Keeffe wrote “I believe we are the two best painters working in our part of the county.” Wells looked to a variety of religious and cultural sources—from historic Spanish Colonial traditions of New Mexico and cathedrals of Europe to the French avant-garde—to inform his own spiritual expressions. This exhibition examines the biographical events, political anxieties, and regional influences that shaped Wells’ multifaceted ruminations, in his chosen medium of watercolor.
This exhibition examines Wells’ remarkable singularity from the perspective of the mid-century influences that shaped his increasingly surrealist style. Ruminations takes a close look at Wells’ unique approach to the New Mexican landscape, his interest in the state’s historic Spanish Colonial traditions , and the powerful effect s of World War II and the development of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos had on his life and work.