Carlita, (2011) – Kyle and Kelly Phelps portray the plight of undocumented workers in the United States. The Phelps bestow special attention upon female workers who clean our homes, harvest and prepare our food, make our clothing amongst other monotonous often invisible tasks.

Identical twin brothers Kyle and Kelly Phelps were born and raised in Newcastle, Indiana, a working class factory town. Their father and a sister were factory workers their entire professional life, as were the majority of the other town residents. The workplaces included Chrysler, Ward Warner Gear and the Firestone factories. The Phelps brothers received graduate degrees in fine art from the University of Kentucky in Lexington and later became college art professors in Ohio.


“We’ve had a shared story and experience for ever,” they say. “Our relation is everywhere in our life, we studied, did chores at home, worked… always together. We support each other, contaminate each other’s ideas and work; it ceases to be a one person’s authorship.”

An integral aspect of their work is that, based on first-hand experience working in factories, they adapt actual factory processes into the creation of their work. Common themes include race and the deterioration of industry. Their assemblages utilize elements of clay, metal, fiberglass, wood, and found objects retrieved directly from factory sites: scorched and corrugated sheet metal, wooden pallets, tools, etc. The tableaus are not idealized or romanticized. The figures are often slumped over their days work, weary from their labor. The Phelps state,  “We consider ourselves activists. As educators we teach, inform, and shape minds…. We want people to know the everyday struggles of common men and women. We feel obliged to share what we know.”