A Conversation with Artist Fellow Kevin Epps

I’m Julian Cox, chief curator at the de Young, and tonight we are very excited to present the world premiere of FAM BAM, a new film by Artist Fellow Kevin Epps. The film will be shown in two back-to-back screenings in the Koret Auditorium at 6:30 and 7:10 p.m. Immediately following the second screening, there will be a question-and-answer session with Epps, during which he will share insight into his creative process and describe how he has used his time as an Artist Fellow to develop his ideas for this latest project.

This week, Epps and I sat down to talk a little about his background and how archives and material culture infuse his work in film.

Julian Cox: What is the inspiration behind your current project Fam Bam?

Kevin Epps: My inspiration for FAM BAM came out of my strong interest in the African American experience, history, art, culture and how family, extended family, and fictive kinship bonds have helped us survive slavery and more.

JC: How has working at the de Young as an Artist Fellow informed your artistic process?

KE: The Artist Fellowship at the de Young has been a very rich experience for me personally and professionally. I have had the honor to work with an amazing and talented group of artists, and I’ve been privy to the insight and creative processes of these unique individuals. This abundance of voices has enriched my artistic and creative process immensely.

JC: What kind of materials do you gather when you're researching for your films? What sort of things excite you—photographs, albums, archival documents, etc.?

KE: This particular project, FAM BAM, has been a very unique experience because I've drawn a lot of my research from a varied range of materials–archival film footage, cartoons, caricatures, paintings, sculptures, photographs, textiles, drawings, and more. These are all images created by African Americans or depictions of the African American experience.

JC: How do you see community defining or shaping the black family structure?

KE: Family and community are one and the same, especially within the black community in America. The black family structure can be defined by the adaptability of family and kinship roles based on love, need, and survival [rather than blood relationships].

JC: Your film Straight Outta Hunters Point focuses on life in a particular neighborhood in San Francisco. Can you talk about how different areas around the Bay Area—Hunters Point, Oakland, and now Golden Gate Park—have influenced your work?

KE: The San Francisco Bay Area has a very rich fusion of people, communities, and cultures. And within each of these communities are stories that are inspiring and important; and when passionately and creatively moved, I feel the need to turn the lens on them.