Laura Phelps Rogers needs viewers to interact with her latest work, 1100 Pieces. Beginning with 1,100 individual four-inch-by-four-inch canvases adorned with letters, the artist is asking her audience to share a word, one that will be displayed on a massive billboard inside Edge Gallery, starting tonight with her show's opening.
But Phelps Rogers shares that it isn't just about the words chosen -- each canvas block will be painted a certain color, and the letter attached will be in a different color. She's interested in the choice of hue as much as the sequence of letters.
"Connected with the experience of engaging the community, I'm sort of interested in seeing people's response to color, because it effects their emotions," says Phelps Rogers. "When you pick up something that's turquoise, it evokes an emotion and probably a memory of something that's happened in your life -- maybe it was the color of your room, or the color of your grandma's front porch."
In the recent past, Phelps Rogers' work has called upon the community for support using installations -- like last year's A Woman's Work Is Never Done -- to raise money and awareness for causes like breast cancer research. But with 1100 Pieces, the artist wanted to interact directly with her viewers on the work itself. The result is tonight's opening, a show based on a similar, smaller scale piece Phelps Rogers previously created using the canvas word blocks.
"My work is sort of driven by the collective of social and cultural memories, as well as my own," says Phelps Rogers. "Often my work is layered, because not only does it have a reference to my personal memories, it also has a reference to social and cultural memories on a larger scale."
The larger scale version of this idea will come in the form of 1100 pieces, which will be presented on a massive, well-lit indoor billboard that viewers add their own words to.
"The community's subconscious will be engaged because they'll be asked to spell one word -- I'll ask you to speak to me about what that word means, and what it means in reference to you," says the artist. "I think where it's important to become a part of the piece is when the people involved tell a story. We all become a part of that story as our lives begin to cross and people's lives or things that they've experienced are documented in some small way."
Phelps Rogers sees her work as an experience, one that is often based on memory, but expands into a larger context as it comes together. She compares it to set-building in film or theater, with a close attention to detail while mastering a sense of continuity.
"A lot of times when I'm working on a big project like this, it sort of unfolds as I'm doing it," she says. "(As opposed to) photography, where some of that journey is about taking a person to a reality -- you have to sort of maintain that reality, that thread. If that thread breaks, well, then so does the story. I'm very careful to not let it deteriorate -- if I see something that's going to be wrong, I try to go into it and fix it. Even if it's already been done, I think it's important that the experience be whole in the way that it was intended."
The interactive piece will also share the gallery space with some of Phelps Rogers' other works -- like "Entertain," an installation and performance piece that showed earlier this year at Redline Gallery -- as well as other billboard-style pieces.
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The 1100 Pieces opening runs tonight from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Edge Gallery and viewers are invited to come and be a part of the exhibition. For more information, visit Laura Phelps Rogers website.