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First Posted: 1/15/2009

PEMBROKE – Sigmund Freud would have a lot to say about the Adam Wells Playtoon, a six-tank sculpture display that takes observers through a range of emotions.
It deals with shock, anger, pain, frustration, sadness and depression and hopefully you end up understanding it and having a healing, Wells said.
But a child would be fascinated by the playful adventure the steel tank display offers. In Wells world, things are not always as they appear initially and figuring out whether a piece is about work or play is part of the intrigue. Sometimes he drops one foot in realism and the other in fantasy land.
Find out for yourself as seven of his steel works will be displayed throughout Lumberton. Wells, a first-year assistant professor of art at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, got permission from the city to display the art for a year. The city will pay $1,000 for the work to be insured.
I dont like the idea of hiding art, Wells said. I have a lot of art to take to shows, but many times Im holding the works waiting for the show. This is the area I live in and I felt I should be a part of it. So its my way of being a part the community.
Connie Russ, the downtown coordinator, calls the exhibit a first for Lumberton.
Its a great way of introducing art to our community, Russ said. Were right up there with Chicago, who a few years ago went crazy with cows. I think these sculptures will kind of break down the barriers our community has about art. Adam typically gets $2,000 per sculpture, and has had them on display all over the country. Yet he has decided to forgo that fee to help the art cause in this county.
Wells got a helping hand from city workers when placing the steel works, which weigh hundreds of pounds each. Five of the sculptures are in place, and the other two will be soon.
Most of his sculptures are happy works that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, but they typically have a hidden meaning waiting to be uncovered. An art degree is not required to understand Wells perspective.
When I used the image of big tanks its not at all a reflection to violence, but fantasy, Wells said. Its nostalgic for me. When I was a kid I thought the military was about Ninja soldiers, tanks, rocket packs and G.I. Joe.

Teacher and creator

Wells, 33, taught art in high school for seven years before working at USC Upstate, Limestone and Winthrop.
One of the joys of teaching is when students come to revelations about their art and find their voice, he said. Not many understand it right away. A lot of times its what they learn along the way.
The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wells is a former high school football player who drifted into art as a sophomore in college. He started painting and making pottery, but working with steel was more in his mold.
I believe art should reflect its creator and be a reflection of his surroundings, Wells said. Awhile back I was showing tiny, ornate pottery works at a show and the image just didnt fit for a big guy with his head shaved. What I do try to do now with my metal work is to make something that says something visually in an interesting way.
Wells says he would like to see his works in Lumberton replaced with works from other artists. Some of his works decorate the UNCP campus.
Id like to see my students work exhibited on campus and others step up to put works in Lumberton, he said. Its my second semester here, we have some large pieces that can be shown. Its works that represent us, the student body and also shows what our campus has to offer. As for our county, it would be great to have a sculpture park somewhere.

Arts stops

The following artwork by Adam Wells is already displayed.

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