By Michael Hardy | 1/27/2015

FOR THE PAST 18 YEARS, sculptor Tara Conley has been collecting phrases. Phrases she overhears at the supermarket, phrases people say when they’re talking to her, phrases plucked from the ambient chatter of daily life; banal phrases, profound phrases, witty phrases, silly phrases. She now has a collection of 900 such phrases, a collection she dips into when creating her multimedia works.

For a courtyard archway at Texas Tech’s Rawls College of Business Administration, she made limestone engravings of several phrases related to power, integrity, and success (“They never thought small”; “The boardroom just got a lot bigger”). For the South Gessner Houston Police Station she cast 33 phrases in bronze and hung them throughout the building (“You have the right to remain silent”; “Good luck with the police”).

For her new installation at the Houston Museum of African American Culture, Conley took her process one step further and based the entire work around a single phrase: “My Life As A Doll.” She chose the phrase in collaboration with writer Tria Wood when they were planning the original version of the installation, which went on view at DiverseWorks in 2011. “I asked Tria to go through the list of phrases with me, and we both picked the same phrase,” Conley remembers.

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