John Thomas Wells IV was born in Washington, DC, in 1945 and raised in Baltimore, Maryland.
His selective education was both institutional and private. As a child he took drawing classes at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Later, during a two-year residence in Japan in the mid-60s, he was tutored in the traditional Japanese brush painting, sumi-e, and oriental calligraphy. There, he was exposed to Zen Buddhism and then later to its Western counterpart, Scientology, when he returned to the States. The later influence enhanced his creative focus and output. With this hightened production came a thirst for challenge of the medium. And so with the recently acquired discipline of the oriental brush he entered his prolific watercolor period. The most notable outlets for these works were an unsanctioned artists' bazaar by the fountains in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and then Benwai Gallery in Provincetown, Cape Cod, in the 1970s.
In the early 1980s, Wells apprenticed in the New York City studio of the Belgium artist, Benoit Gilsoul, who was then executing large public commissions in sandblasted glass. Wells later opened his own glass studio and went on to execute highly complex glass mural commissions of his own design, in public and private venues in Manhattan, Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland.
From 1993 to 2003, the artist’s studio was situated at the Artists Housing Cooperative in East Baltimore. During that period, his intrinsic collecting of, and fascination with objects dynamically advanced into the assemblage stage. Aesthetic geometry, textural contrasts, and potential significances interplayed as trial compositions evolved into finished sculptures. In his descriptions of the medium he states “the process begins with the harvesting of objects which are imbued with subtle qualities.” He goes on to state that “this work is an exploration into, and celebration of infinity."
His prolific output of assemblages was presented in 12 exhibitions over a four-year period in the Baltimore-Annapolis region. Most notable were his two solo shows: "Primitive Post-Modern Artifacts” in April 2000 and "Powerless Weapons, Useless Tools" in 2002. As a member of the Maryland State Art Council Registry, he was selected, in 2003, into the 17th Annual Critic's Residency Program. In 2004, he was juried into the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Later he worked in Washington DC, first at the Jackson Art Center in Georgetown and then at R Space gallery and studios where his work is currently displayed.
The artist’s involvement in photography began at the age of 8 with a Kodak box camera. His traditional use of the medium – travel photos, was interrupted in the late 60s after seeing the darkroom compositions by Jerry Uelsmann in Aperture Magazine. Then working as a darkroom technician in a portrait studio, he spent a week in the darkroom laboring over a composition made from 2 negatives. But he says, “The result was a piece of art.” After the loss of a free darkroom the camera returned to orthodox use - recordings of his paintings and sculptures. In 2010 a friend gave him a digital camera for Christmas. The camera’s panoramic feature, which stitched 3 consecutive shots into a single composition, became a channel of avid exploration. A new visual language evolved which the artist calls "Three Shot Haiku”. For the artist this approach had wedged open a window to infinity, thus becoming a parallel track to the pursuit that began with assemblages.