Life mapping that's hard to decipher [Visual Art]

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The methodic tic-tock of a grandfather’s clock echoes throughout the room eventually colliding with a chorus of angelic voices that float overhead. This is only part of the sensory experience that artist/scientist/advocate Bill Wells presents at his exhibit “Spiritual Fluctuations: A Structure by Which the Art of One’s Life Can Be Experienced” in the Huff Gallery at Spalding University.

Sculpture, paintings, installation pieces and participatory art are all part of Wells’ retrospective of not only his art, but also his life. Wells states, “This show has been organized to reflect the seasons of my capacity for discovery through spiritual space-time.” If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is. This is one exhibit where the artist seems to be the only one who comprehends it.

Upon entering the gallery there is an installation piece titled “Waiting for Art Alien Family’s Birth” which is comprised of several painted canvases of various abstract subject matter encircling an incubator which houses three fertilized eggs. Each of these pieces are given titles as well, but are meant to be the bullet points under that one bizarre title.

In this exhibit there are references to: various religious faiths, the great thinker Albert Einstein, the struggle for civil rights in the south, mental illness, running a successful political campaign and even the serenity of Olmstead’s parks. It’s difficult to know what Wells is saying because the exhibit is so varied and vast even the stapled brochure reads like a grocery list. There are 64 pieces in this exhibit.

Upon my visit to the gallery, the artist happened to be walking through and he stopped to inquire if I had any questions. Bill Wells is a tall man with a soft voice and a glint in his eyes that gives you the sense that his mind is always engaged. Realizing that he had a captive audience of one, he gave me a personal tour of the exhibit.

“Art is so neat,” Wells said, “because you enter that creative place where everything just flows.” When talking about his art it became clear that each piece was in reference to a specific event or time in his life, which would then get him talking about his life experiences. He’s been a physics teacher, an urban planner, witnessed the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, ran for mayor and in 1975 suffered a mental breakdown that eventually led to his advocacy work with Louisville Metro Disabilities Coalition and the now defunct Advocates Taking Action in Kentucky Against Mental Illness. 

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