A veteran makes art from fishing lines, and he’s blind

Video featuring Jim Stevens’ art was produced by Leslie Dodson, Paul Cywilko and Janine Trudell.

Jim Stevens is meticulous in crafting his art.

It’s a process he calls “monofilament painting.” First, he lays out 129 strands of fishing line, covering each strand with acrylic paint before repeating the process seven more times. Then he suspends those lines eight layers deep in a clear acrylic case. The completed piece has a holographic effect, moving and shifting depending on where the viewer is standing.

The artwork is all the more exceptional because Stevens is legally blind.

An Army sergeant in the Vietnam war, he was shot during a reconnaissance mission in 1970. For 23 years, he was unaffected by the bullet fragments that remained in his skull. But suddenly in 1993, they shifted, triggering a stroke that left him with just tiny pinhole vision.

“I was angry for a very long time after I lost my eyesight. Then my two youngest daughters said ‘Dad, you’ve always loved art. Why don’t you get back to it? My art eventually got me so busy, I forgot to be angry.”

Stevens loves how his unusual art makes people stop, look at it from many angles and question what they are seeing. “I want to engage people. I want people to interact with the art,” he said.

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Stevens, a former professor at the University of Colorado, devotes all of his time to his art. He’s won several awards and has started showing at galleries across the country. He says he lives by the motto: “A man with a vision is never truly blind.”

This report originally appeared on Rocky Mountain PBS’s “Arts District” program. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.