Detroit artist Jon Strand has glaucoma. He’s legally blind in his left eye and losing his right, yet paints in the most time-consuming, soul-crushing style known to man — pointillism.
That’s the technique that involves applying hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of tiny dots in layer upon tedious layer, building up a density of paint or ink that, in Strand’s case, yields startling color and depth.
Strand’s “Wave Series” paintings are on display in “Water Poems” through Oct. 8 at Midtown’s Galerie Camille.
This inventive show includes three parts: Strand’s ink-on-paper work, the elegant, abstract nature photography of S. Kay Young, and the cutting-edge fashions Detroit designer Leslie Ann Pilling has created from each.
Strand’s wave patterns have been digitally printed onto fabric, and stitched by Pilling into a ball gown, waistcoat, ties, kimonos and more.
“It’s a bit like Audrey Hepburn was a character on ‘Star Trek’ and wore my collection,” she says of her designs. “They’ve got something of a futuristic feel.”
The minute the designer walked into Strand’s Corktown studio and saw his wave paintings, it was love at first sight.
“The movement in Jon’s paintings is astonishing,” Piling says.
“Those waves have a life of their own. A 2-D painting that moves? It’s kind of mind-boggling,” she says.
Some liken his Wave Series to the classic work of Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai, whose towering waves break into millions of tiny dots of water suspended in mid-air.
Pilling likes that analogy, arguing that the “minimalistic, yet sophisticated” balance Strand achieves is precisely what you see in the Japanese decorative arts.
“But I’d throw the word ‘deco’ in there, too,” she adds, noting there’s something in the endless repetition of Strand’s undulating waves that calls to mind Art Deco’s fascination with parallel lines and shapes.
He says: “I’ve almost turned water into a form of geometry or something.”
The Detroit Institute of Arts owns two of Strand’s works — “As Above So Below” and the wave study, “An Epic of Distance and Time, Part 13.”
But then, as Pilling notes, there is an epic quality to all he does.
Strand says it’s really all about discipline and perseverance.
He can tell you precisely how long each painting took. In the case of the three large, 29-inch-by-41-inch canvases on display at Galerie Camille, “one took 717 hours. Another 876, and the last 1,048. I keep track in case anyone asks.”
But then, as critic Matthew Piper noted last year in the Detroit art journal Essay’d, for Strand, “making art is a long-distance sport.”
‘Water Poems: A Union of Art and Fashion’
Through Oct. 8
Galerie Camille, 4130 Cass, Suite C, Detroit
Noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat.