CJ Wells


“I love to paint. I am totally impassioned by being in my studio and picking warriors out of the air — like musicians pick notes out of the air … “

Of Native American (Arikara), Spanish and English descent, artist CJ Wells researches extensively in order to ensure meticulous accuracy in her portraits of Native American warriors – even as each image veers powerfully from detail to non-detail. 

Clothed in authentic dress that features highly detailed beadwork, feathers, furs, or hides these warrior figures have remained the subjects of CJ Wells throughout her career. Of their distinctive eyes, she notes, “I paint the yellow eyes because it symbolizes the way the old ones looked at the earth. Like the animals, the hawk, the eagle, the wolf – with respect and a real love.” Birds and animals figure into many of her paintings as well, seeming to communicate directly with the subject.

In her original oil paintings CJ Wells layers her paints with glazes to provide additional depth. Each element is worth inordinate attention; she once used seventeen colors on a horse’s eye. She has also created select giclées and silkscreen prints to allow her impressive paintings to be more accessible.

As TAOS Magazine has stated, “Wells’s paintings present a fascinating contrast between the solemn faces of her subjects and the lush color and detail that surround them. Her images have an abstract, timeless quality. The warriors are set against dark backgrounds or cloudy skies, and their yellow eyes seem to gaze out beyond the viewer. They appear to be listening to an inner voice or contemplating the past. Each one is an elegant, aristocratic presence surrounded by mystery and drama.”

Wells was born in New Mexico and studied at UCLA, Los Angeles City College and Eastern College in Billings, Montana. She lived for a time with the Crow Indians who remain favorite subjects of hers. Top awards have been hers for close to forty years from 1st Prize in 1981 at the Santa Monica American Indian Art Show and Exhibit in Santa Monica, California, to 2004 when she was chosen to paint a life-size Painted Pony with a Crazy Horse theme for the “Trail of Painted Ponies” in New Mexico. Public collections that include works by CJ Wells stretch from the Scottsdale Symphony in Arizona to the Native American Center for the Living Arts New York, with additional public collections in California, New Mexico, Michigan, Maryland and Virginia. Private collectors include numerous celebrities and noted individuals. The charitable contributions by CJ Wells are many.