‘The Light at the End of History’ Explores Nuclear Technology, History in Photographs at River Campus Art Gallery



Artist and educator Abbey Hepner will display her work at the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus Art Gallery in October.

A virtual gallery and artist’s talk will be held at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 14 on Instagram Live, and audiences can tune in live by visiting the Instagram handle @rivercampusartgallery.

The exhibit examines land use and nuclear issues in the United States by taking an expansive look at humanity’s coexistence with nuclear technologies and history. The work that will be on display features chemical-based alternative process photography and laser engraved photographs.

Through these unique processes, Hepner highlights the material and dimensional possibilities that the medium of photography holds. Using material like x-ray film and uranium, the images comment on the ontology and scientific beginnings of photography in its quest to render the invisible visible.

“The River Campus Art Gallery is always looking to bring thought-provoking shows to campus, and Hepner’s artwork definitely fits the bill,” said Justin Miller, associate professor of art and exhibitions coordinator. “While photography is her primary medium, the images Hepner captures are often scenarios of her own creation that deal with the intersection of art and science.”

Hepner’s interest in science and history stems from early life experiences. She grew up in Utah and southern Idaho between the Nevada National Security Site, where the U.S. government tested nuclear weapons, and the Idaho National Laboratory, an 890-square-mile section of Idahoan desert used for reactor experimentation. She also lived in Japan before beginning graduate school in New Mexico.

“My work comes from an interest in history and its mark on the places we inhabit, and curiosity about land use and technology,” Hepner said. “The alternative photographic processes that I use have their own unique place in history, as well as materials that reference the conceptual concerns in my work.”

Hepner’s work often questions systems of power and the use of health as a currency. Her practice ranges in execution from art intervention to performance, from coding to biological experimentation, but the artwork almost always lives in and through the photographic medium.

Miller said Hepner’s exhibit represents a continued relationship between Southeast and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she is an assistant professor of art and area head of photography.

Hepner holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico and spent time as an artist in residence at the Banff Centre in Canada. Her work has been exhibited widely in such venues as the Mt. Rokko International Photography Festival in Kobe, Japan; the SITE Santa Fe contemporary art space in Sante Fe, New Mexico; and the Krannert Art Museum in Champaign, Illinois.

The River Campus Art Gallery is located on the first floor of the historic Seminary Building in Room 106. River Campus Art Gallery hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1-7 p.m. on First Fridays.

All gallery exhibitions, events and talks are free and open to the public. Face coverings will be required, and social distancing guidelines will be in place.

For more information, contact Justin Miller at jhmiller@semo.edu or (573) 651-5901.