Of all the pieces that Wells walked me through, the most telling was For Love of Our Parents.
Bill Wells with For Love of Our Parents
It’s a haphazard paper totem of Wells’ personal achievements. At the top is a photograph of his father taken by Wells. This is one of four photographs by Wells in the exhibit and in my opinion the camera is where his true talent lies. Underneath his father’s photograph is his kindergarten report card with glowing accolades from his teacher and a handwritten “That’s my boy!” by his father’s return signature. Next, a receipt for Poll Tax that his parents signed in 1955 and beside it, in contrast, a memorial poster for a deceased friend and civil right activist in the city of Louisville. A page from a Christian devotional follows this where an asterisked Hebrews 3:15 reads, “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Last, an oversized sheet of paper, the kind used by students to practice handwriting, says in perfect elementary script, “Happy Valentine To Mother and Daddy From Billy Wells.” Hand-drawn alternating blue and red hearts frames it. When I asked Wells about the piece he said with amazement, “How can a child go from this to being trashed?” The stigma of suffering from a bout of mental illness is one thing that people don’t seem to forget, but something that Wells refuses to let define him.
Bill Wells’ exhibit will be on view until Feb. 19th. In conjunction with this exhibit, a film series and brown bag lunch with discussion will be held from 11:40 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Spalding Library Lecture Lounge. The dates are: Jan. 24th, Jan. 31st and Feb. 7th. Additional information can be found at: http://spalding.edu/visitors/huff-gallery
title photo: Bill Wells, "The Eye of God"
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