Xavier Professor and Identical Twin Pay Homage to Working Class Background

May 23, 2013

Kelly Phelps, associate professor and acting chair of the department of Art at Xavier University, and his identical twin, Kyle, associate professor of Art at the University of Dayton, are featured in the June/July 2013 edition of internationally respected American Craft magazine.

“This is one of a just handful of highly acclaimed international publications that any serious sculptor wants/needs to be published, featured, or reviewed in,” says Kelly, “especially while still living!”

The article speaks of how their blue collar upbringing in the rust belt of New Castle, IN shaped their lives. It became the theme of their wall-mount relief sculptures depicting the work and lives of factory workers. The Phelps brothers sculpt the figures out of clay and paint them – most often in tones of red, white and blue.

After graduating with art degrees from Ball State, the brothers both took factory jobs to earn extra money. Kelly said it was “horrendous – dark, sticky and hot.” It also became dehumanizing after time. The brothers entered the MFA program at the University of Kentucky and it was there that they tapped into their upbringing as the theme of their art.

The sculptures depict workers displaced by technology and the economy. Yet, despite hard luck, these people still have hope. Lately, the brothers have expanded their subjects to include the homeless, hotel maids, janitors, and migrant farm workers. Kyle and Kelly bring the sculptures to union halls and other spaces where blue collar workers gather to share their homage to working people.

View a slideshow at: http://tinyurl.com/qbf2xoz