Justin Strom is a mixed-media artist whose work explores newly developed technologies in print media to produce photographic works of art that push the boundaries of printmaking. Strom’s work investigates a deep curiosity of the human body, creating a digital landscape of our unseen inner-spaces by combining elements of the real with those of the imagination.
Engaging with issues of microbiology, cloning, and genetic sequencing, Strom uses a hybrid of photography, digital printmaking, and 3D composite imagery to build luminous 2D works. Dense abstract forms with no clear boundaries create an alternative interior with scenes of rich color, frozen explosions, and conglomerated forms that act as symbolic reminders of transformation and impermanence in a volatile world. These multi-layered works offer a microbiological investigation of forms in imagined space that revel in the structures and processes of the body by exploring it from the inside.
Strom is currently an Associate Professor of Printmaking and Digital Imaging at the University of Maryland in College Park. He received his MFA in Studio Art from the University of Wisconsin- Madison in 2003, and a BFA in Painting at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri in 1998. Strom also worked as an Assistant Printer at Highpoint Editions in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a Production Assistant at Tandem Press in Madison, Wisconsin.
Justin Strom’s new body of work explores science fiction in the purest manner. His intense investigation of inner-space probes into the imagination and a deep curiosity of the body. Moving away from his figurative work of the past, these digital prints offer a microbiological investigation of forms in imagined space. Using 3-D composite imagery, Strom builds a world that is composed of layered abstract forms. The artist’s hand begins to push and pull, twist and contort reality until we’re not sure if we’re looking at something entirely new. One part mad scientist, one part digital painter, Strom makes a conglomeration of amorphic shapes in pristine and inviting spaces. He invents dense worlds with no clear boundaries.
In this body of work, influences come together seamlessly. In recent conversations Strom revealed that a few ideas fueled his creativity for this collection of mixed media prints. Loosely inspired by science fiction and fantasy, Strom is pulling references from microbiological adventures like the 1966 film ‘The Fantastic Voyage.’ (In this movie a team of shrunken surgeons travel through the blood stream of a man to save his life). Embedded deep within the body they revel in the human form. Strom’s use of rich colors and frozen explosions echo forms seen under a high-powered microscope as they reveal unknown and volatile worlds. Strom’s work speaks to an international art trend of examining the cross-section of art and science. Australian curator John McGhee speaks of the science art genre, "There is a degree of ambiguity in what you're looking at -- is it art, is it science, is it technology? Well it's all of those things. Why separate them out? The gallery of the 21st century is becoming that type of space -- that nexus of art, technology and science." Strom’s work generates excitement about the unknown, but also grounds the pieces in a fictional fantasy that is familiar and historical.
Strom is also influenced by the stylization of 17th century Dutch Master painting. Inspired by their use of organized forms in space and keen attention to surface and texture, he’s demonstrating formal pursuits that parallel the attention to detail of the Golden Age of Dutch painting. These are some of the elements that make these pieces stand out. The signature element of Strom’s work is his glass-like smooth resin treatment. His liquid glass windows allow for us to voyeuristically look into the world that he has delicately crafted.
Perhaps more than all of the poignant references, this show is a celebration of dynamic craftsmanship. Strom is a maker of the highest caliber. His painstaking process has led to a sophisticated style that is enticing. His use of digital prints with resin is a tactile delight. With this work Justin Strom is displaying a range of expertise that demonstrates a truly interdisciplinary practice that presents a portal to the past and technological visions of the future.