In another life, Jeremy Ian Harvey was a strong part of Detroit's underground art community, serving as an editor for the former Orbit magazine, helping launch the Dirty Show, and working as a muralist around Detroit. In the '90s, he served as a full-time muralist for the Leland City Club, living in the apartments upstairs and going downstairs to paint a new mural each week.
That era came to an end several years ago when family duty called on Harvey to serve as the full-time caregiver for his wife, Kristen, who has the genetic degenerative Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and his 10-year-old daughter, Juliana, who has EDS in addition to autism and cerebral palsy. Most recently, Juliana was diagnosed with excitable catatonia, a condition which means she is full of energy, constantly moving until she tuckers out around 9 p.m.
But Harvey has managed to split his time between creating art and taking care of his family, saying he manages to squeeze in 15 to 20 hours a week of art. "Whenever I get any second of free time, I am completely devoted to art, and that's pretty much all I've been doing for years now," he says.
Part of that necessitated an artistic shift. Harvey says before, he used to get caught up in the details of his acrylic paintings. When his time became more precious, he was forced to make a change.
"I would spend, you know, days just on like three square inches," he says. "And it was just making everything crazier for me. So I just decided — I dropped brushes altogether and I decided to try painting without using brushes. I grabbed some palette knives and cooking knives, spoons, forks, bits of wire, just anything to get paint onto my canvas without using a brush."
Once he finally loosened up, Harvey began to incorporate brushes back into his work. "I learned so much from doing that, that I eventually brought the brushes back in to have the best of both worlds," he says.
Harvey's latest bodies of work are splashy, fun, and colorful, mixing large swaths of freewheeling brushstrokes with tighter rendering. They're collected in a new exhibition called Ghost the World, a name which Harvey says is a play on his decision to retreat from the wider world to tend to his family.
"I've completely become kind of like a hermit," he says. "When you ghost somebody, you don't give any explanation. All of a sudden you're just not in that person's life. And that's kind of like what I feel like I just sort of did to the planet."
Within the last two years, Harvey has managed to create enough work for six solo shows, which includes shows based on vintage clown photos, David Bowie, and Party City, in which Harvey put out a call to his friends to send him their party photos to be re-created as painting. Ghost the World will feature 30 to 40 pieces, some culled from those past shows, along with some new work. The common thread is the pieces are all large-scale, a reference to his days creating murals like the Pulp Fiction-inspired painting he did for Midtown burger joint Royale with Cheese and the murals he did for parents of children with special needs for the nonprofit Friendship Circle.
"It's kind of like a greatest hits with, like, an extra album thrown in and, like, a remix album put in there as well," he says.
Despite his family's challenges, Harvey's upbeat about the opportunity to continue to create art and the upcoming show. "I wanted a very big, colossal, jumbo summer blockbuster-looking show," he says.
Ghost The World has an opening reception from 7-11 p.m. on Saturday, June 8 at Hidden Gate Gallery, 1353 Division St., Detroit; 313-686-3433; hiddengategallery.com.
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