Danica Phelps

[ARTIST]

“I DRAW AS IF I CAN SEE THROUGH THINGS.”
Items—and how many of them—Phelps would
have to sell to pay off her credit-card debt:
Her most expensive drawings—8
Her most inexpensive drawings—480
Cups of soup—4000

At Danica Phelps’s recent opening (LFL Gallery, New York), Phelps moved through the crowd in a pink beaded gown and horn-rimmed glasses, with a small Jack Russell terrier at her side. Phelps had moved her home into the gallery as part of her show’s telltale (and ambitious) mission of “Integrating Sex into Everyday Life.” The occasion for her work’s thematic shift toward the erotic was the artist’s late-in-life revelation regarding sex and its efficacy. After a seven-year marriage to the first man she kissed, Phelps fell in love with her present partner, Debi, in 2002.

—Suzanne Snider

*

THE BELIEVER: I was interested in the descriptions of not only the approach to the show but also the value system by which you priced your own work.

DANICA PHELPS: I show all of my drawings, regardless of whether they’re good or not, because they’re all part of my financial records. So instead of throwing out the bad ones, I would just write a price that would indicate how I felt about it, so the cheapest ones are $25 and the most expensive ones are $1600, just based on how much I like them. And size plays into it somewhat.

The value of money itself can change, which is so bizarre. I mean if you have $6 and you spend $3 for a cup of soup, that’s half the money you have. But if you just got paid and you have $600, $3 is nothing, so that exact money—that $3—has different meaning for you at different times.

BLVR: How does it work, your system of “generations” of drawings?

DP: I had a show at White Columns in 1998 that was a long scroll, about twenty feet long. It had drawings of everything I spent money on during a three-month period. People wanted to buy the drawings, which was amazing to me, so I cut them out, and there was an empty square left over. I thought, “Well, I don’t want there to be a hole in the drawing so I’ll trace the drawing and put it back in,” and that’s the way I started the generations, and its just kept going from that. Every time someone buys one of the generations, I’ve added a strip at the bottom of my second generation that tells them who bought it, when, and for how much money and where. And then that one is for sale. And on some of the drawings, there are four red dots, because people can buy the same drawing.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Suzanne Snider is a writer and performer. She is currently at work on a nonfiction book titled Mitten: Out of Thee Shall Come a Star.

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