I have been showing and selling the things that I make in churches and bars, schools and hair salons, bathrooms and garage sales, flea markets state fairs, the World Financial Center, restaurants, weddings, parties of all sorts, museums, theaters, store windows, night clubs, diners, a candy store and even galleries.
Now a word about my choice of materials. I was taught by my parents to make stuff out of whatever I could get my hands on: it’s better than spending money on the habit, or sending the stuff to the landfill.
I once read the Chinese word for “paper is the root word for both “civilization” and “bureaucracy”. Our material culture is built at the expense of the lives of countless trees and by the exploitation of peoples, animals and the earth Herself. It hurts! The by-products of a system (any organic organization) are said to be indicative of the system’s health (or lack of ).
Once I was making a set of giant plastic dinosaurs on commission for a steakhouse (I used a lot of plastic back then because the rats and roaches would get into my paper stuff). The thought occurred to me that the plastic that I was using was probably made from fossil fuels. What was I doing? I was recycling dinosaurs! I’ve been told that people think of me when asked “paper or plastic?”
Santa Fe reawakened in me a sensitivity to dry, brittle things and an appreciation of the color brown. In my landscape work I try to heal a lot of scars. In this series I recycle paper, artistic conventions and my neuroses in another effort to order and reassemble my world. A friend likes to tell me that the Buddha said “life is suffering”. Another friend is fond of telling me “he who laughs, lasts!”
A menagerie of Tigers, Giraffes, Raccoons, Hummingbirds, Long-horned steers, Dairy Cows, Penguins, Goats, Donkeys - some with bundles of wood burdens, some without, Buffalo with shaggy manes, Sheep, snow white or midnight black, Elephants – the whole family from tiny to old bulls, Hens in baskets laying, Bats peering at the viewer, and Flying Dragons segmented wings expanded in purples, or deep blue or dark fuschia to name a few! OH! And! Raccoons and Zebras, Lions and Monkeys too can be had on top of little boxes, some with party hats. All of Phelps' work is made of recycled papers, from hymnals, encyclopedias, menus, beer cartons, magazines, food labels, security envelope liners or junk mail , ephemora repulped and repurposed into dynamic sculptures. Pumpkins for Halloween and witches on broomsticks, bobble-headed Santas and egg yolk yellow Easter chicks some with wired feet covered with the yellow pages – whatever the season Phelps responds with joyous sculptures hand sized or mega hero sized statues. Dreamy whorls. Unforgettable. Accessible.