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Kyle Edward Phelps and Kelly Eugene Phelps (identical twin brother) received their B.F.A.s from Ball State University in 1996. They earned their M.F.A. (2000) degrees in Ceramics and Sculpture from The University of Kentucky. The twin brothers studied under professor Bobby Scroggins, Jack Gron, Arturo Sandoval and Garry Bibbs. During the spring of 2001, immediately after graduate school, Kyle along with his identical twin brother (Kelly Phelps) began to pursue careers in academia as members of the fine arts faculty at the University of Dayton. Kyle Phelps is an Associate Professor of Art and head of the Ceramics area. Kelly Phelps is now the head of Sculpture at Xavier University located in Cincinnati, OH. Kyle Phelps along with his twin brother, Kelly, were awarded tenure and promotion in 2008. In the spring of 2010, both Kyle and Kelly were awarded their first sabbatical to conduct research and produce a body of work about the modern plight of the blue-collar worker in the United States.
Identical twin professors and collaborative artists Kyle and Kelly Phelps’ work encompass the creation of traditional ceramic, sculpture, and mixed media art. Our research interests includes social-political representation through the use of visual narratives; the human figure as image and ideal; multiple topics including, race, class, and the working class /blue-collar; material meaning and process. We have been working with these ideas/themes for a number of years and feel that there is still so much more for us to explore and to create. The topics /themes that we create are forever fresh and timeless.
- M.F.A., University of Kentucky
Before entering the world of academia, becoming professors, tenure, and sabbatical, the twins experienced first hand what the struggles of the working class was really about. The twins grew up in a blue-collar/factory environment in Indiana where they were inspired by family members and friends who worked in various manufacturing plants, steel mills, and foundries. These everyday people became working class heroes that has inspired over a decade of working class art.
For a number of years the twins have worked in collaboration to produce work that incorporates both the handcrafted (clay/resin casts) juxtaposed with found objects/site specific objects. Kyle and Kelly have combined gears, corrugated metal and scrap-machined parts along with modeled ceramic/resin cast figures to create a visual narrative composition about the blue-collar experience. It is important for the twins to continue to combine handcrafted art form together with these found objects to give our work an authentic sense of place and time. The found objects are in a since historical artifacts. Much of Kyle and Kelly’s work not only allows the viewer to visualize our created compositions, but also allows the viewer to evoke their other senses as well. Some of the found objects that we have incorporated into our work are soot-covered or soaked in cutting machine oils that emit a distinctive odor commonly found in automotive factories.
Kyle and Kelly Phelps share over 180 publications. Their most notable publications include: Sculpture Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ceramics Monthly, The Jazz Press, USA TODAY, The Ottawa Citizen, Radar Magazine, Cincinnati Enquirer, Indianapolis Star, The Detroit Mirror, Dayton Daily News, Lexington Herald, Louisville Defender, Leo Arts and Entertainment Magazine, and Louisville Eccentric Observer to name a few.
Exhibits & Collections
The twins’ sculptures are created in a collaborative effort. Their work has been exhibited in over 110 juried, solo, invitational, regional, national, and international exhibitions. Their most notable exhibitions venues include: The Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, NY, The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, San Angelo State University, San Angelo, TX, 27th annual Ceramic Symposium, Carr Education-Fine Arts Building, Angelo State University The Nicolaysen Museum in Casper, WY, Ross Art Museum, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH, American Craft Council Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA, Penland Gallery, Penland School of Craft, Penland, NC. Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH, California State Fine Art Gallery University Northridge, Northridge, CA, Gallery Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
The brothers Phelps have completed over 75 commissions that include many permanent, private, public and corporate collections including: The NAACP National Headquarters, Brown-Forman Company, Priddy, Isenburg, Miller and Mead Law Offices. Private collections of actor Morgan Freeman, director Michael Moore, and musician Bootsy Collins. The most notable public commission includes a life-size bronze statue of the 1960's jazz great, Eric Dolphy, on permanent display on the campus of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY (2010). During the spring of 2011 the brothers Phelps produced over 20 new sculptures for their collaborative Sabbatical exhibition “God Steel and a Wasted Dream.”