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. His work has been exhibited internationally in numerous group and solo shows. Recently, Arendt was short-listed for The 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art and received the South Carolina Arts Commission Visual Artist Fellowship. His work was awarded the top prize at ArtFields 2013, Best in Show at Hub-Bub Gallery’s Emerging Carolina and was included in the 701 Contemporary Center for the Arts 701 CCA Prize 2012 . His work has been included in Fiberarts International 2013 & 2016 and the 2013 Museum Rijswijk Textile Biennial, Netherlands and include in the Arkansas Art Center’s permanent collection of contemporary craft.
Jim is an Assistant Professor and Gallery Director at Coastal Carolina University and received his BFA from Kendall College of Art & Design and his MFA from the University of South Carolina. He participated in residency programs including The Fields Project in Illinois, Arrowmont’s Tactility Forum, and has From Waste to Art VI in Baku, Azerbaijan. He has also been an invited instructor at Penland School of Craft and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.
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.