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 David Phelps  (1956 - )

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Lived/Active: Oklahoma/California      Known for: large-scale public sculpture, figure

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Ad Code: 4
David Phelps
Desert Pastoral 2003 Bronze Edition of Six, 60" x 204" x 108", Casting Commissioned by the University of Oklahoma
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
David Phelps success as a sculptor may be attributed to his clarity of purpose, which is evident not only in his contemporary work, but also in the fact that his subject matter emerged early on. The family farm on which David Phelps grew up is located on Roberts Island, part of the Delta in the Central Valley of California. His first eight grades of school were spent in the same classroom with the same teacher with all eight grades being taught at the same time. The farmyard was an ancient burial ground and from a very young age his spirituality was rooted in the dirt of the farm. He remembers a constant worry about drought. And then when it rained, everyone worried about high water. This constant ebb and flow of the environment affected the family dynamics as well as his own personal development.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1979 from Humboldt State University, Arcata, California; his Masters of Fine Art in 1994 from the University of Oklahoma. After receiving his MFA in 1984 David continued sculpting while doing exhibit design work for the Omniplex Science Museum in Oklahoma City.

The paradoxical nature of life concerned him early on. Thus, crafting the skin surface to look like parched, cracked mud was his metaphor for poverty whether physical or emotional in the midst of excess. "A lot of affirmation has emerged from images submerged and parched" he notes.

"At the outset, I thought that by combining opposites, I could infuse my art with the power of that tension. I also realized that this imagery is strengthened because the viewer has to put it together. There is a participatory element with a positive outcome. When I'm working on an image and start developing it, I think about the edges as they intersect with the plane. I see ways to change them to get the whole image to focus. It's the difference between a strong piece and an average one."

Phelps' sculpture evokes reaction no matter what the proportion. The large ones (two or three times life size) are light, the small ones, solid. All are accessible, yet there is content a plenty for those who require it. Because of the dynamics of opposites, the sculpture excites both visually and intellectually.

In 1987 David was awarded a prestigious six-month residency at the Kohler Co. Arts in Industry program where he sculpted in both vitreous china and cast iron. After completing the Kohler program he began large-scale public art commissions and sales of large bronzes, both of which are continuing to date. From 1992 through 1995 David taught sculpture at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma and has since been focused solely on sculpting in his studio. He normally employs between one and three occasional interns from Oklahoma universities, passing on his knowledge and expertise.

David Phelps has created monumental sculptures for more than twenty years. Public art commissions have come from across the United States including an exciting one for McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada at the International airport will be completed in December, 1995. The sculpture is one of "Clark County Wildlife" pieces created by David Phelps and displayed the airport terminal.

His figurative bronzes are in notable international public and private collections including St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO, and Barbie Benton and George Gradow, Aspen, CO. Granada Park, in Phoenix, AZ and the City of Palm Desert, CA. His sculptures appear to emerge from the ground and have surfaces that look like dried, cracked mud. The figurative works are serenely contemplative and imbued with a dry, subtle humor.

Source: Kent Whipple, Art Professional

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