Joseph Tipay
I grew up in a pivotal time in East Fresno, California. In the 1980’s the crack cocaine epidemic swept the nation, and due to the city’s central location within the state, it became one of the largest drug trafficking areas in the country. This cheap, highly addictive drug found Fresno’s large impoverished population to be a perfect marketplace. At this time, The California Prison Wars brought the independence of the nation’s largest independent Latino street/prison gang known as The Fresno Bulldogs. This violent, ruthless and ever-growing gang called my neighborhood home base. All the while, many young children like myself, were left to navigate this tumultuous time with a father or even a mother in prison. This made for easy gang recruits.

My work deals with the effects felt by those with a parent or parents in prison. I draw from the experience of having a father in and out of prison for most of my life. This struggle has allowed me to connect to family members who have gone through similar experiences. Over time they have shared intimate details of events that have shaped their lives. Along with this deep-rooted knowledge, I conduct informal interviews as well as research to create and support this social narrative. Some themes include communicating through prison walls, maintaining relationships, intergenerational incarceration, crime, gangs, drug abuse and breaking the cycle. I also touch on unconditional love, humanity, the separation of family, and telling a side of the story that people are unaware of, or are insensitive to.

Printmaking is a traditional medium adopted by both Mexican and Chicano artists/activists. It allows communication to a large audience through the production of multiples. I continue this tradition by making large-scale woodcuts that act as modern broadsides. With the woodcut technique I’m taking something hard and rigid, and transforming it into something beautiful. These are qualities that my subjects share as well. It is a tough subject brought into a different light. With that said, my goal is to unify the street world and the fine art world by putting some images up in the street so that it’s in context, while also making pieces for the gallery.