I am an imagist and activist...
Epping integrates his work as an imagist and activist through conjoined constructs. While each arena's work is not always analogous to the other, the processes share strategies that often engage language and image. These intersections form networks that permit the viewer/reader to determine meaning. He has found that when the image does not illustrate the word, and words do not caption the image, each offers an expanded role in their pairing.
Social constructs are rife with intended systems that authority can manipulate to sustain power and diminish those who do not share equal access to either control or the codes. Peeling away veils—looking at that typically overlooked—is a primary strength of the arts. Epping, through his teaching, studio practice, and social justice engagements, enlists that principle as a focal point of his words and deeds.
Granary Books has published four of Epping's earlier projects. His work is collected by the Museum of Modern Art-Artists Books Collection, Yale, Harvard, the Center for Creative Photography, The Art Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago, and the Getty Center, among others. Epping received an M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to teaching at Williams College (1977-2017), he has taught at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Central Michigan University. He was the AD Falk Professor of Studio Art at Williams College from 2001-2017.
Epping currently lives in Galisteo, NM.
What is his connection to mass incarceration?
My father was seven when I first visited him in prison. He had been convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in a state penitentiary for conspiracy to commit fraud.
Though we were not financially secure, my family stayed in our upper-middle-class home. My father's business acumen permitted him to become the warden's office manager almost immediately upon beginning his sentence. Upon parole, he secured a management position and, two years later, a Small Business Administration loan to open retail stores. My family narrative is far from typical of the 2,200,000 imprisoned in the USA. Differences? My father was white, an upper-middle-class male who had attended six years of post-high school and benefitted from the Veterans Home Loan program.
My father's chronicle is a part of my own, hence the accounting theme throughout my studio work engaging overcriminalization and mass imprisonment. Though convicted of a renowned felony in 1950's Illinois, my father continued to access privilege and, consequently, so did I.
Bryan Stevenson writes: "We have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent." As a white male, I am aware I have privileges withheld from others. I possess social capital that permits me access denied to others. I feel a keen ability to bring these accounts into unexpected places through unanticipated means.