Jim Arendt is an artist whose work explores the shifting paradigms of labor and place through materials that resonate with work and the people engaged in it. Influenced by the radical reshaping of the rural and industrial landscapes in which he was raised, he investigates how individual lives are affected by transitions in economic structures.
Jim Arendt is an Associate Professor of Visual Arts and Gallery Director at Coastal Carolina University. He received his BFA from Kendall College of Art & Design and his MFA from the University of South Carolina. He has participated in residency programs including The Fields Projectin Illinois, Arrowmont’s Tactility Forum, andFrom Waste to Art VIin Baku, Azerbaijan.He’s been invited to teach at Penland School of Craft and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. His work is exhibited internationally in numerous group and solo shows.
Recently, Arendt was short-listed for The 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Artand a 2018 finalist for theElizabeth R. Raphael Founder’s Prize,Society for Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, PA. In 2014, he received the South Carolina Arts Commission Visual Artist Fellowshipand his work received the top prize at ArtFields 2013. He has exhibited in Fiberarts International 2013 & 2016 & 2019, and the 2013 Museum Rijswijk Textile Biennial, Netherlands and has work include in the Arkansas Art Center’s permanent collection of contemporary craft.
He has juried numerous local, regional, and national exhibitions in support of the arts across the country.
I’ve paid witness to the demise of opportunities to engage in meaningful work and seen cities ravaged by the absence of industry. My research focuses on transitions in macroeconomic structures through the lens of their effects on individual lives, communities, and workers’ relationships to the structures of labor itself. As the landscape of work and labor continue to shift around us, I use art making as a way to investigate how the division of labor and alienation from work has impacted individual lives.
My art is about labor. I remember my father sitting at the sewing machine patching his Wranglers in the evening. He was making do: A concept of thrift and pragmatism that dictates you work with the materials at hand. That memory mixed with the stories of other working people and led me to denim as a possible material. The inherent qualities of denim make it a good choice. It is a universal fabric born in the dust of the cotton field, made supple by the sweat of garment workers, and embedded with the fading of second shift evenings.
Denim seems created to be abused, worn out, patched, stained, and burnt through. Its characteristics are mirrored in the individuals I choose to represent. Yet, jeans remain supple, and with the right pair of boots can still go to the ball. I like that.
Still, it’s damn hard to make pictures out of it.
I guess I like that, too.