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. His work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions at venues such as the Penang State Art Gallery in Penang, Malaysia,Limner Gallery in Hudson, New York and the Lessedra Gallery and Contemporary Art Projects in Sofia, Bulgaria. Strom was invited to present at the Southern Graphics Council Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and has spoken about his work at venues such as the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC and Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
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.
In his first solo exhibition in Washington, artist Justin D. Strom presents seductive surfaces that express an aesthetic based on the human image as shaped by, and reflecting, our digital age: an age that attempts to dissolve the distinction between the virtual and the corporeal. Employing a hybrid of photography and digital printmaking, Strom navigates a world of microbiology and abstraction. Strom references opulent Dutch still life paintings through a rich canvas of constructed scenes that act as symbolic reminders of transformation and impermanence.
In Strom’s work, deepened black spaces deploy a sensibility towards negative space while vibrantly colorful surfaces draw you into a world of unfamiliar objects. These objects reference imagery of botanicals and life itself. The chiaroscuro-like space is a stage for these strange figures to consume your attention, yet a sense of danger lingers beneath the surface – a warning against the luxurious and opulent feeling of these objects, referencing the brevity of life.
Engaging with issues in microbiology, cloning, and genetic sequencing with a sensibility for the fantastical sci-fi films of the late 60s and early 80s, Strom toes the line between reality and fiction and considers our place in both. Abstraction becomes mutation, sequencing becomes the repetition of forms, and the line between art, science, technology is entirely blurred.
Of the body, of science and its fiction, of digital imagery itself, these works are a heightened sense of the immediacy of today’s major issues, concerning universal and personal experiences with technology, change, and our environment.
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.