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Beyond ART: Artist Talk with David Phelps

  • JRB Art at the Elms 2810 North Walker Avenue Oklahoma City, OK, 73103 United States (map)

David Phelps' Artist Statement:

My work, largely auto-biographical in nature, explores the relationship between figure and environment. My early work dealt with an implied environment beyond the sculpted image. In addition to this approach, in more recent works, I also utilize fabricated materials to define and narrow the relationship between figure and environment. Works such as 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall and Team Lauson continue my exploration of personal history, but with a different approach. These pieces represent significant objects from my personal history in a way that brings life to these memories. 

Two prominent memories from the farm are a skull that resided in “the shop” and a salt fired Amsterdam Gin Bottle from the 1800’s that hung out in Grandma & Grandpa’s dining room. “99
Bottles of Beer on the Wall” is a mash up of those two separate memories from the farm. Our Four-H Camp was held at a campground on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Singing the old song 99
Bottles of Beer on the Wall was one way of passing time on the long bus ride to and from camp. Grandfather Lloyd L Phelps Sr. (1911-1994) bought property throughout his life as a farmer. He
bought unleveled acreages which could only be dry farmed. As he was able to, he leveled parcels of land so that it could be irrigated. Eventually all the property was level and irrigated. An abandoned privy site was uncovered during one of the levelings. In the 1800's it was common to toss all sorts of trash in the hole when a privy had to be relocated. This particular site contained a pristine salt fired Amsterdam gin bottle which his grandparents displayed in their home. A skull also played a prominent role in the mystery of the farm history. All these early memories from the farm played a major role in the creation of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.

“Team Lauson” is also a mash up of the skull and the antique salt fired bottle, with the additionof the memory of an ancient gasoline powered water pump that I only remember actually running when I was very, very young. Mostly It just lay abandoned in the yard outside the “shop” door. (for 50 years). The catalyst that brought these disparate memories together to form “Team Lauson” was seeing a “Day of the Dead” show at the Santa Fe Folk Art Museum several years ago. It was a beautiful show that included folk art skeletons driving in folk art cars. 

I was raised on a farm on Roberts Island in the California Delta. My figurative imagery has developed from these early experiences on the farm. Flood, drought, solitude, and an expansive environment has played a significant role in my aesthetic development. How deeply those experiences are ingrained in my subconscious becomes apparent when I consider that almost every dream involves the farm in some way. I try to connect with people through my artwork in an indirect way, much like waving to distant passing cars from the solitude of a tractor seat.

Join us for his artist talk to learn more.

Later Event: November 30
Sip n' Solder