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Pop realism sculptor, Jean Wells, is breaking attendance records, and attracting audiences of all ages for her large-scale, eye-dazzling mosaic sculptures inspired by iconic popular culture and brand name products. Her recent show, Oceanside Museum Art Icons of Desire, drew more than 700 on each opening night, and her next show, at the prestigious Imago Galleries in Palm Desert on Nov 29th, 2014 is promising to be much bigger.
Jean Wells, raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, was born into a large artistic family with strong skill sets grounded in old world techniques such as fresco secco, realism and mosaics. Wells apprenticed with her father, mosaic artist Thomas Wells, and learned the painstaking craft and iconography of classical Byzantine-style mosaics as he completed a large commission for the architecturally celebrated St. Demetrios Greek Church in Seattle. She studied graphic design in college and worked in advertising while raising her two children, but never let go of her love of creating. Once her children left home, she decided to devote more time to sculpture and mosaics and had her first solo show in 2007.
By way of background, Wells is taking consumerist culture in the form of familiar icons, and re-igniting them in a highly accessible, interactive, and awe inspiring manner, such as the couples who got married in her Giant (Hershey’s) Kiss, or the 17 crazies (including a bunch of Tibetan Monks) who piled into her Life-sized Mosaic Taxi.
Her art though hints at a more tongue-in-cheek or serious ideology and intent – and, like artists whose influence she admires such as Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, Wells produces luxuriant and decorative surfaces that are seductive to broad audiences while leaving the door open open to questions of critique predicated on feminist or other ideological concerns.
Jean Wells has exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, the Juan Antonio Perez Simon Collection in Mexico City, and other contemporary art institutions and galleries in the Netherlands, Greece, India, Spain, China, England, Mexico and France. Additionally, she has become a popular exhibiting artist with the international art fair circuits in Basel, Berlin, Paris, Hong Kong, London, Aspen, Chicago, Santa Fe, San Francisco, and New York.
Currently based in San Diego, she also has works in the San Diego Air and Space Museum; the Oceanside Museum of Art; 17 pieces in the Kinsella Library in La Jolla; and one special fish in the R. Roger Rowe School Library in Rancho Santa Fe.
Today her large-scale pieces can take six months to a year to complete. Glass is stored in shelves organized in a rainbow of color, which she hand-cuts and applies it to a polyurethane foam backing.