Photo Left: Gerald Wells, a Southwest Colorado resident for 37 years, says using a computer to create art has returned a sense of discovery to his work.
Photo Right: “Mothership” created using 3-D scanning and computer plotting.
In 1963, Gerald Wells went to Vail to start an art school. He taught for five summers, envisioning an art utopia. He evangelized about an art school that would encourage students to do what they wanted to do without interference – a school that would promote inventiveness.
The Vail art school never became a reality, but Wells was determined to relocate to the Southwest. His studio partner at that time at Western Carolina University was Al “Doc” Sarvis, a member of the Monkey Wrench Gang. Sarvis’ friend was a guy named Edward
“Abbey said: ‘If you really want to drop out, there’s this little school in a place called Durango,'” Wells said from his studio at Fort Lewis College, where he spent the last 37 years teaching and making art.
According to Wells, both Sarvis and Abbey applied for jobs at FLC, but were turned down.
“That’s Fort Lewis history. They turn down every opportunity. Can you believe it? They wouldn’t hire Edward Abbey to teach in the English Department?” Wells said.
Wells planned to leave Durango after his first year at Fort Lewis. He decided to stay because he thought that as the community grew, the new residents would be more forward thinking and make a difference.
But nothing has really changed, he says.
“The Southwest is focused on its history,” he said. “The people who come here are tied to the past. The tourists who visit are looking for the Old West. It is something we keep perpetuating through the handmade crafts that we call fine art.”
“Good art isn’t regional,” Wells said. “We don’t have a Southwest doctor or a Southwest physicist, but we have a Southwest artist? People use the label for personal legitimacy, but it’s not something you simply elect to be.”
For Wells, art is innovative and unfamiliar. He thinks Southwestern artists are re-doing the same old things, focusing too much on history.
“It chokes new ideas and prevents them from getting started,” he said.
He acknowledges that his own representational images are about his anger at the decaying human condition. They are not art he claims.
His art is the work he creates on the computer.
“The computer changed me and changed my life. There are no rules. I can get away from representation and get back to discovery.”
His computer-based art is created using 3-D software such as Lightwave and Cinema 4D and vector programs such as Moto. The work “Mothership” features a crescent-shaped image floating against negative space and is printed with archival inks, looking almost like
pastel. It took two days for the computer to render the graphic, which shows a photograph compressed into hatch marks and shapes that are far beyond the familiar.
“The most deadly thing for creativity is control, since – improperly imposed – it merely drags what might have been a new discovery back into the scissors of history, and that is the end
of the creative outcome,” Wells wrote in an e-mail detailing his philosophy. “So I work with the process in order to preview as many options as possible before introducing elements of structure that will guide and preserve an image.
The process is never over, from a conceptual standpoint, and there is little to say about the image that gets hung on a wall, except that it might provide a clue about something far more important: the next image that I hope I will be able to make.”
Wells, who earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Mississippi, said his art education was about what he thought.
People such as David Smith taught him to look at the way art changed everything around it. To look through it at what it defines.
“Anyone can paint and draw, but I want to know what you think,” Wells said.
Then he went on to lament about local amateur artists painting flowers.
“I know these people and what goes on in their personal life. They aren’t telling the truth. Artists have to tell the truth. Art is about interaction of people. It has very little to do with pretty pictures.”
email@example.comLeanne Goebel is a freelance writer focusing on the visual arts.