An introduction to Debra Yepa-Pappan from Chip Thomas

“Spock was a Half-Breed (Live Long and Prosper)”

Note from the editor: I’m pleased today to have this guest post from Chip Thomas aka Jetsonorama, an artist we have covered on Vandalog many times and also the organizer of The Painted Desert Project. The most recent contributor to the project is Debra Yepa-Pappan, whose piece is shown above. Yepa-Pappan’s work is new to me, so we’re also publishing an interview that Thomas did with her. – RJ

Chip Thomas: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?  Where are you from originally, how did you meet and end up in Chicago?

Debra Yepa-Pappan: I was born in Korea. My father was in the Army and was stationed in Korea where he met my mother. I was born after he had been moved back to the U.S. When I was 5 months old, my mother and I emigrated to the States to be with him. We lived in Jemez for a short time, then on the Army base with my dad in Alabama and then Mississippi, where my parents were married. By the time I was one year old, my dad was discharged from the Army and we moved to Chicago. I’ve been here ever since, although I maintain a strong connection with Jemez and my Korean side. Throughout my childhood and teen years, my parents and I would visit Jemez frequently. And I ultimately went to school at IAIA in Santa Fe to meet other Natives and to be close to “home” that being Jemez Pueblo. Chris and I met there, and I brought him back to Chicago with me when we were both done at IAIA. We’ve been together for 22 years and married for 19 years with a beautiful 12 year old daughter.

CT: What is your art training?

DYP: Growing up, I never really thought of “becoming an artist.” My interest in art started late in high school and I was focused more on design. When I attended IAIA, I began by taking jewelry and then photography. I fell in love with photography. I felt at home in the darkroom and I enjoyed the hands on process of developing my own film and prints. My instructor was Meridel Rubenstien. What I really appreciated about her was that she didn’t teach me to just be a photographer, but she taught me to be an artist. So I’ve never really thought of myself as a photographer, but an artist who uses photography as my medium. I continued on at Columbia College of Chicago where I learned to refine my darkroom skills and where I learned how to use the digital medium, but then I had to “take a break” when I became pregnant. I’m still on that break!


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