Skip navigation


by David Phelps

Dimensions: 8.5 x 11 x 17.5
Gift of Gail Sloop, 2004

Tracker by David Phelps
Photo by John Jernigan

The Artwork

David Phelps' Tracker shows a man looking over his shoulder as he pulls his boat. By creating an effect in which the surface of the pedestal acts as the surface of the water, Phelps encourages the viewer to imagine that part of the action in the sculpture is not visible.

Phelps explains, “The imagery of my figurative bronze sculpture is rooted in my early years growing up on the family farm on Roberts Island in the California Delta. Surrounded by water and threatened by drought I was unknowingly developing my lifelong aesthetic foundation. My figurative bronzes, ranging up to three times life-size, appear to emerge from the ground. They are serenely contemplative, and each piece is imbued with a dry, subtle sense of humor. I was raised on a farm and to a certain extent my imagery grows out of my emotional and visual experiences of those early years. How deeply those experiences are ingrained in my subconscious becomes apparent when I consider that almost all my dreams involve the farm in some way.

One influential memory was my visceral reaction to the cracks in the ditches that naturally resulted from the interaction of dirt, water, and sun. Another powerful memory was the anxiety, fear and hope experienced living through times of flood and drought. I use the cracked surfaces and the illusion of the figure emerging from the ground plane to communicate to the viewer something basic and fundamental about those remembered feelings in the hope that a deep chord of familiarity will be struck, appreciated, and acknowledged.

Figurative bronzes, some small-scale and others ranging up to three times life-size, appear to emerge from the ground. They are serenely contemplative, and each piece is imbued with a dry, subtle sense of humor.”

The Artist

David Phelps grew up on a family farm in California. He attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse on Roberts Island through eighth grade where he was taught by Mrs. MacIntosh. Both she and Katie Feck, his oil-painting neighbor, encouraged Phelps to explore his artistic talent from a young age. After graduating from Humboldt State University with a bachelor's degree, Phelps moved to Norman, Oklahoma, in 1980 to attend graduate school at the University of Oklahoma where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture in 1984. A year later, he was awarded a regional National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a six-month residency in the Kohler Arts/Industry program in Wisconsin in 1987. After finishing at Kohler, he was awarded his first large-scale commission from Triad Development Co. in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has been creating both small and large bronze sculptures ever since.

Phelps' large-scale commissions can be found in Arizona, California, Kansas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and across Oklahoma. His work has been exhibited in one-person and group shows across the U.S. and is included in many prestigious collections including the Sandor Family Collection of Chicago, Beretta Foundation of San Antonio, and the Tennessee Museum of Art.

Phelps lives and works in Oklahoma City. A 2012 Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) documentary titled "Deep Roots: Sculptor David Phelps" explores his artistic process.