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Riki Rafner

The Commonwealth Club of California Showcases "The Incarceration Effect"

The Works of Bay Area Artist Joseph Tipay: July 2, 2018 through September 7, 2018 

San Francisco (June 20, 2018)—The Commonwealth Club is proud to continue its tradition of showcasing the work of local artists at its new headquarters based at 110 The Embarcadero. The pieces are being displayed on a rotating basis in the Club’s new Farmer Gallery based on the Lobby Level of its new building. With funds from Tawnie and John Farmer, former Chair of the Commonwealth Club Board, The Club was able to establish a gallery space with proper lighting and a professional hanging system. From July 2 through September 7, The Club is pleased to present the creations of Joseph Tipay.

Artist Joseph Tipay describes his process saying, “My work deals with the effects felt by those with a parent or parents in prison. I draw from personal experience and this has allowed me to connect to family members who have gone through similar struggles. Over time they have shared intimate details of the 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 of Tipay’s themes include communicating through prison walls, maintaining relationships, intergenerational incarceration, gun violence, gangs, and drug abuse. He also touches on breaking the cycle, unconditional love, humanity, the separation of family, and telling a side of the story of which most people are unaware. 

Tipay adds, “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.”

Tipay observed that printmaking is a traditional medium adopted by both Mexican and Chicano artists/activists. He continues this tradition by making large-scale woodcuts that act as modern broadsides. With his woodcut technique he takes something hard and rigid, and transforms it into something beautiful. These are qualities that his subjects share as well.

Curator of the Club’s exhibits Lynn Curtis commented, “This truly is a unique and timely exhibit, one which seeks to not only to inspire, but to change the viewer’s thinking about the criminal justice system, prison life, who is incarcerated, and how this impacts an individual’s psyche and family—reminding us of what is currently taking place on our Southern borders when family members are separated from their loved ones.”

About the Artist: Joseph Tipay grew up in Fresno, California. His early (and only childhood) art education consisted of watching his Nino (Godfather) paint Chicano murals, local signs and lowrider club vehicles. The streets became his classroom, and he learned more there than in the art-starved public schools he attended. Because of its ephemeral nature, new works of art were added to the galleries every day. These experiences led him to San Jose State University where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art with an Emphasis in Education. After stumbling upon printmaking in college, he ultimately earned an M.F.A. in Printmaking at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco.

Tipay works on large-scale woodcuts, which investigate the effects of parental incarceration, mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex. Like many other artists/activists, Tipay chose printmaking because of its ability to create multiples. His work has been shown nationally, showcased extensively throughout California and has won several awards. He currently teaches at Madera Community College Center, and Merced College. He also teaches art with West Hills College Coalinga at Pleasant Valley State Prison.

About Lynn Curtis: Longtime Commonwealth Club volunteer and artist herself Lynn Curtis has curated over 40 of the Club’s exhibitions since 2007. Curtis produced exhibits in the Gold Room of the Club’s former office space at 595 Market Street from 2008 through 2014.

Curtis noted, “I love looking at art and looking for artists. It’s an exciting adventure seeking these visual treasures. Open Studios in the Bay Area provides a great opportunity to visit the artists where they work.” Curtis also frequents local galleries, mines local papers, and receives recommendations of those she meets at the Club. About the work she chooses to display she says “All of them must be honest, with a unique insight. The winners draw me to them.”

Curtis, a native of Pennsylvania, attended the College of the Arts in Oakland, known as the College of Arts and Crafts. She is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the first and oldest art school and museum in this country, established in 1805. She says she is indebted to the classical training she received there which, in fact, is the substance of her art background.

Notes Curtis, “The exhibition program is a continuation of the purpose of the Club: to expose the public to new thoughts and ideas as a public forum. The exposure here, though, is silent. Each artwork speaks to the viewer’s eyes, and the viewer must internalize what he sees.” Curtis recommends that the viewer always asks, “What is this artist trying to say to me, and why?” 

Exhibits of artworks at the Club's Farmer Gallery are available during most business hours and, unless otherwise noted, are free to view. Many exhibits will also feature a special event featuring the artist. For more information about Club exhibits please visit Interested parties may send exhibit proposals with photos via email:

About the Commonwealth Club of California: Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s premier public affairs forum, with more than 22,000 members. Based in San Francisco with a second office in San Jose, the Club hosts over 450 speeches, debates and discussions each year on issues of regional, national and international significance. The Club continues to host its guests -- from presidents and activists, to scientists and chefs, at its offsite venues around San Francisco, in Silicon Valley, the East Bay, and in Marin County as well. In addition to its traditional forums, the Club hosts the Climate One project on climate change and Inforum, the Club’s division oriented to younger community members. It has sponsored public policy projects over the years, ranging from early 1900s studies and reports leading to environmental and social legislative and policy innovations, to more recent efforts to improve state governance in California. The Club has produced a PBS film, published books and publishes a bi-monthly magazine, The Commonwealth.

At least 1 million people listen to The Commonwealth Club’s weekly radio broadcasts on more than 230 public and commercial stations across the country. The Club’s podcasts are downloaded about 2.5 million times each year. The Club’s videos also appear on the California Channel, C-SPAN and YouTube, where they have been viewed millions of times. For the past 11 decades, the Club has fostered free speech and civic dialogue on a wide range of topics, addressing key issues in society, culture, politics, the economy and more in more than 450 live programs each year. For more information, visit

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