2012 66” x 240 x 83 bronze edition of 5 available
American Beauty is the result of a slow evolution of images beginning with the double life size mixed media sculpture that David Phelps created for his Thesis Exhibition at the University of Oklahoma in 1984. The original Bather was a somewhat surreal, ironic self-portrait in a sinking bathtub with a surface that looked like dried, cracked mud. This was part of a series of self portraits that all referred stoically back to life on the farm.
In the Nineties, Phelps sculpted a smaller scale bronze female bather, sans the cracked mud surface. Art collector Barry Solomon of San Antonio, Texas saw one of these small bronze bathers at Hahn Ross Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and subsequently commissioned Phelps to sculpt a double life-size female bather without the bathtub. This piece titled Nancy, was produced in an edition of six bronze castings. The first casting is San Antonio, Texas, another is on the shores of Lake Tahoe, one was purchased by Saint Louis University in St Louis, Missouri, and another was bought by Ardmore, Oklahoma art collector Wanda Westheimer. A few years later, a second Ardmore art collector, who was familiar with the Westheimer’s Nancy,
contacted Phelps about commissioning a double life-size bronze of herself similar to Nancy.During an extended studio visit, she expressed what she was looking for in the sculpture that she wanted to install next to the swimming pool she was putting in at her Los Angeles home. Armed with this information, Phelps enlisted a friend to pose for some photographs used to make a proposal. After purchasing a different large scale sculpture from Phelps, the collector eventually decided not to go forward with the commission but Phelps was so pleased with the proposed image that he sent it out to his art galleries. He quickly got a call back from art dealer Matt Vickers asking if it was possible to sculpt this four times life size rather than double life size. A Houston couple loved the image, wanted it for their new Florida beach home, wanted it based on the same model, and wanted it four times life size. Phelps was able to get Kim back to the studio for body casting in order to make that happen. The entire process is outlined in the image galleries above. American Beauty is sculpted in two different sizes, The twenty four feet long sculpture is in an edition of 5 bronzes and the forty inch long version is in an edition of 35 bronzes.