Danica phelps

I have been making work about money and my everyday life since I received my MFA from RISD in 1995.  I have been concerned with value since then when I began working as a waitress after leaving graduate school and for the following three years.  What is my time worth?  How much is a dollar really worth?  Is $20 worth more to me if I only have $100?  I started drawing everything I spent money on as a way to keep track of how much money that I had at any given moment.  I was living in an SRO in Manhattan with so little money that I was constantly running out.  Making drawings of everything I spent money on helped me keep track of how much money I had, but also helped me feel that I was generating something every time I spent it.  When I started showing my work (my first group show was at White Columns in 1998), and found that people were interested in buying it, I realized that I had to devise a plan for how to let the drawings go and still keep something to maintain my records since every drawing was part of a system.

I decided to trace each drawing that was sold and add information on the tracing about who purchased the drawing, how much they paid for it, how much I earned, when they bought it and where.  I then mounted the tracings to wood and added them back into the system.  At this point, anyone else could purchase the drawing, and so on up to 20th generation.

I was surprised to find that in the gallery world, the price of an artwork is often determined by it's size, relative to the rest of the artists output.  I was showing every drawing that I made because they were all part of a system, and therefore, some drawings were better than others.  I liked some of the very small drawings much better than some of the much larger drawings, so I decided to make the price part of the work.  The price is always written in a circle on the lower right hand corner of the work. In my first exhibition at Jack Tilton Gallery in 1998, the prices ranged from $7 (yes!  Jack was paying someone to send invoices out for $7.00... I loved him for that!) to $1800.  I just felt that some of the drawings were, to be honest, really bad, and some were really good, but they were all part of the system.  

I have continued making work about money and my everyday life ever since with twists and turns but always anchored in these core subjects.  Now, the work has turned to a concern about our planet, our government, and the suffering of so many people around the world.  I have been working on fundraising projects to do my part in trying to solve some of these problems.