Featured Artists

Interviews Archive Page

135  Christina Massey

134  Mary Grisey

133  Trina Perry Carlson

132  Anne Kelly

131  Louise Lemieux Bérubé

130  Dorothy McGuinness

129  Penny Mateer

128  Christine Mauersberger

127  Jim Arendt

126  Merce Mitchell

125  Louise Keen

124  Rosemary Claus-Gray

123  Mary Giehl

122  Emily Hermant

121  Robin Wiltse

120  Barbara Klunder

119  Megan Skyvington

118  Rachel Brumer

117  Heike Blohm

116  Shanell Papp

115  Carmella Karijo Rother

114  C. Pazia Mannella

113  Karen Goetzinger

112  Andrew MacDonald

111  Jeanne Williamson

110  Catherine Heard

109  Rosemary Hoffenberg

108  Cathy Breslaw

107  Leslie Pontz

106  Cas Holmes

105  Geri deGruy

104  Suzanne Morlock

103  Barbara De Pirro

102  Kathryn Clark

101  Noelle Hamlyn

100  Judith Mullen

99  Barbara J. Schneider

98  Merill Comeau

97  Beverly Ayling-Smith

96  Barbara Hilts

95  Mackenzie Kelly-Frère

94  Anna Keck

93  Pilar Sans Coover

92  Dolores_Slowinski

91  Leslie Pearson

90  Temma Gentles

89  Tilleke Schwarz

88  Anna Torma

87  Kim Stanford

86  Ingrid Lincoln

85  Anna Hergert

84  Joy Walker

83  Maximo Laura

82  Marie Bergstedt

81  Alice Vander Vennen

80  Xia Gao

79  Leisa Rich

78  Megan Q. Bostic

77  Sayward Johnson

76  Heather Komus

75  Sheila Thompson

74  Kerstin Benier

73  Molly Grundy

72  Nathan Johns

71  Lorena Santin-Andrade

70  Lisa DiQuinzio

69  Nancy Yule

68  Jenine Shereos

67  Bovey Lee

66  Nell Burns

65  Lancelot Coar

64  Elisabetta Balasso

63  Matthew Cox

62  Yulia Brodskaya

61  Lotta Helleberg

60  Kit Vincent

59  Barbara Heller

58  Catherine Dormor

57  Joyce Seagram

56  Yael Brotman

55  David Hanauer

54  Dwayne_Wanner

53  Pat Hertzberg

52  Chris Motley

51  Mary Catherine Newcomb

50  Cybèle Young

49  Vessna Perunovich

48  Fukuko Matsubara

47  Jodi Colella

46  Anastasia Azure

45  Marjolein Dallinga

44  Libby Hague

43  Rita Dijkstra

42  Leanne Shea Rhem

41 Lizz Aston

40  Sandra Gregson

39  Kai Chan

38  Edith Meusnier

37  Lindy Pole

36  Melanie Chikofsky

35  Laurie Lemelin

34  Emily Jan

33  Elisabeth Picard

32  Liz Pead

31  Milena Radeva

30  Rochelle Rubinstein

29  Martha Cole

28  Susan Strachan Johnson

27  Karen Maru

26  Bettina Matzkuhn

25  Valerie Knapp

24  Xiaoging Yan

23  Hilary Rice

22  Birgitta Hallberg

21  Judy Martin

20  Gordana Brelih

19  Mary Karavos

18  Rasma Noreikyte

17  Judith Tinkl

16  Joanne Young

15  Allyn Cantor

14  Pat Burns-Wendland

13  Barbara Wisnoski

12  Robert Davidovitz

11  Amy Bagshaw

10  Jesse Harrod

9  Emma Nishimura

8  June J. Jacobs

7  Dagmar Kovar

6  Ixchel Suarez

5  Cynthia Jackson

4  Lorraine Roy

3  Christine Mockett

2  Amanda McCavour

1  Ulrikka Mokdad

Ellie, denim, 2012, 67 x 60 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


Kristine, cut denim, wooden armature, 78 x 48 x 48 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.

Meghann, denim, 2012, 69 x 30 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


Artist: Jim Arendt of Conway, South Carolina, USA

Interview 127: Jim will be exhibiting in the 2014 World of Threads Festival in Solo Shows & Installations in the Corridor Galleries at our main festival venue Queen Elizabeth Park Community & Cultural Centre in Oakville, Ontario.

Subscribe to Artist Interviews here...

Interviews published and curated by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.




Jim Arendt is an artist whose work explores the shifting paradigms of labour and place through narrative figure painting, drawing, prints, fabric and sculpture. Influenced by the radical reshaping of the rural and industrial landscapes he grew up in, 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. His work was awarded the $50,000 top prize at ArtFields, 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. He was awarded Best in Show during Fantastic Fibers at Yeiser Art Center, Paducah, KY. His work has been included in Fiberarts International 2013 in Pittsburgh and the 2013 Museum Rijswijk Textile Biennial, Netherlands.

Jim received his BFA from Kendall College of Art & Design and his MFA with a concentration in painting from the University of South Carolina. He has studied art in England and Spain and participated in residency programs including The Fields Project in Illinois, Arrowmont's Tactility Forum, and taught at Penland School of Crafts. Jim is an Associate Professor and Gallery Director at Coastal Carolina University. Jim's website


Artist Jim Arendt. Photo courtesy of the artist


Tell us about your work:

My artwork grows out of the need for me to understand our shifting relationship with labour and work. I grew up on a farm outside of Flint, Michigan, birthplace of General Motors and the United Auto Workers Union. Our region underwent a radical shift in economics as the industrial and agrarian economies disappeared or were outsourced to different regions and countries. Famously depicted in Michael Moore's 1989 documentary Roger & Me, Flint suffered through the loss of 80,000 manufacturing jobs from which it has never fully recovered. The resulting impact on the lives of the people I grew up with has left an indelible mark on my outlook to our relationship with work as a concept as I seek to make sense of the narrative that unfolded.

The vast scale of the forces that brought about this drama is too large to translate into affective narratives. I choose to instead focus my work on the resulting impact these changes have on individuals and their struggle to navigate our new relationship with work. Our story of struggle and survival continues to play out in different company towns. These changes have accelerated into a global transition as the type of work we engage in as a post-industrial society changes.

Ellie, denim, 2012, 67 x 60 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


You grew up on a farm. Did the arts factor into your life at all when you were young?

I didn't grow up with easy access to museums and galleries, but a farm can provide a wealth of aesthetic experience. I would say that there was a certain skill-set and aesthetic appreciation to the way in which I grew up. There was art in doing a job well. There was art to the patterns of the seasons. There was art to the way the wind blew through corn. The world of fine arts was very far away, but the people I grew up with appreciated skill and craft. There were aspects of customization and automotive culture, pride in the appearance of buildings and objects, admiration for skills of the hand. We didn't call these things art, but they are the same types of skills that I trade on today in my work. The farm was a kingdom of isolation where you developed a sense of how things fit together. Patterns of growth and weather were necessary to know and observe and were both beautiful and terrible. I remember sitting in the top of the barn as a child and looking out over green fields of wheat and watching the shadows of clouds pass over that sea of heavy grain. That was beautiful, and if it wasn't art, it was nearly so.


Installation 1, Sumter County Gallery of Art, 2013, Photo: James Arendt.


Tell us about your formal art education and in what way has this influenced what you do now:

The ability to go and study at an art and design school requires two ingredients: Love and Faith. I didn't start out with the intent of becoming a fine artist, and I flirted with illustration and architecture as disciplines that might be safer career bets. I knew that I loved to draw more than anything else and had enough faith that I could find some type of career that would allow me to practice. When I arrived at college it was like finding my tribe. We were like a bouquet of crazy wildflowers and sat up far into the night talking about art. I was surrounded by other students studying design and art. Our education extended beyond the classroom into every facet of our lives; in fact, I learned almost as much from my job in the library re-shelving books as I did from professors. In my practice now I'm a long way from the things that I studied in school, but I'm able to draw on many of the formal lessons I learned for my current studio practice.

My first love was drawing. Learning to draw is also learning about how people think and perceive. Half of making a convincing drawing is learning how other people are going to look at it and watching how the brain of your viewer works. Understanding human perception and empathy are also lessons that good drawing instructors teach. I often joke that I went to art school to learn how to make bad analogies.


Installation 2, Sumter County Gallery of Art, 2013, Photo: James Arendt.


You have also studied art in Spain and England. Tell us about that:

There're many good reasons to go and study abroad. Melville's opening salvo on travel being a cure for the melancholic soul is as good a reason to go as any. A new location cuts through the tangle of normative behaviour we are enmeshed in, and certainly couldn't hurt the education of any person. Other places offer many new things to see, and being in London, or Madrid, or even here, along the Waccamaw, offers an opportunity to look at the world with new eyes. If some locations offered tighter clustering of artistic output, so much the better, but you don't have to go far to see great things, (I could've stayed in Detroit and enjoyed my Bruegel.)

Travel offers us the ability to be an outsider and to be stirred from the slumber of all that we take for granted. Travel forces you to question the ways in which you've always done things. Try new food, dance into the evening, and open up new doorways in your mind. It's not always safe, cheap, or advisable, but it's guaranteed to not leave you unmarked. It is therefore necessary. I acquired a wealth of knowledge and skills locally, (there's no need to go abroad for those), but if you are able, travel will give you new vistas from which to work.


Installation 1, 701CCA Prize, 2014, Photo: James Arendt.

Installation 2, 701CCA Prize, 2014, Photo: James Arendt.


When studying in Spain, what were the major things you learnt from that experience?

Spain is a wonderful mash-up of times and cultures. It's a crossroad of Roman, Colonial, Islamic, and Christian influences all easily accessed by rail and bus. I learned that when you're done visiting the Prado it's fun to join the telephone union strike marching down the streets before getting on the night train and smoking stale cigarettes while reading Cormac McCarthy novels. I learned to go to museums in the morning and to dodge soccer hooligans in the evening. I drew from Velazquez, Goya, and Picasso, and studied architecture by Gaudí, Gehry and Eiffel.


Installation 3, 701CCA Prize, 2014, Photo: James Arendt.

Installation 3, 701CCA Prize, 2014, Photo: James Arendt.


What had the most impact on you from your studies in England?

London offered me the opportunity to study printmaking and to live in one of the busier cities in the world. One of the things that struck me as being the biggest difference between England and the States was the way in which the tradition of figure painting was maintained throughout mid-century modernism's dominance. The museum system of London as well as the gallery scene made access to a lot of textbook artists feasible. Because I went to London as an undergraduate student, I also took away a lot of lessons on how to travel on little to no money. While I was there I backpacked through Scotland and spent nights under plastic sheets in graveyards. Those types of experiences outside the classroom give you a new appreciation for the Romantics like Turner. I didn't insulate myself from the country, but threw myself into the city and countryside in an attempt to understand it.

Meghann, denim, 2012, 69 x 30 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


With a concentration in painting for your MFA, I'm wondering how you ventured into fibre:

My painting professors asked us to consider our materials as having potential meaning all of their own. They asked me to consider what inherent properties material had that can be exploited as a metaphor for the experiences we were attempting to depict. That seed of an idea about the inherent meaning of materials eventually led me to abandon oil paint in favour of denim. I didn't venture into fibres because I lost love for painting, but because my content became less about oil painting. Oil paint was invented to paint the flesh of gods, but the people I wanted to paint were not gods. I needed a material that resonated with their lives. In a certain sense it wasn't my choice to move from paint to fibres. The logical progression dictated the material, and I could follow where the content wanted to go, or I could continue to make work that just wasn't right.

Ian, denim, pocket linings, 2013, 50 x 40 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


Now you work with denim. How & why did denim become your material of choice?

When I was young and my family was living through the farm crisis of the early 1980s, I remember my father sitting at the sewing machine patching his Wranglers in the evening after work. 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. Its qualities amplified my own ideas and provided stronger coupling between content and form.


Mom, denim, 2012, 61 x 30 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


What challenges does working in denim pose and how have you overcome them?

As an art material denim has a lot of advantages, but it was never intended to make faces with. First of all, it wants to be pants. It's hard to cut and only comes in about seven shades of blue. When I have a show coming up my arms go numb to the shoulder from the abuse of working with it. I really wish acid wash would come back into fashion so I wouldn't have to hunt for light-coloured denim every time I needed a highlight. However, it does give me little treasures. I love all the embedded text. I have a wall of it that says things like, "Relaxed", "Premier", "Boot Cut" and "Straight Fit". That alone has been worth a lot of long hours in the studio. It's bad at making pictures, but that's okay. My pictures are not about refinement.

Dad, denim, 2012, 69 x 30 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


What do you draw on for inspiration?

I'm not a big believer in inspiration. I find solutions in work. Most of my ideas are hastily drawn sketches and words on the drywall in my studio, made while working. Work will generate work. I can't wait on inspiration. Usually, I just need to get back in the studio. I prefer a rule-based approach to creativity in which I set up a neat pasture defined by rules of my own creation to give me boundaries that I can push against. This way I don't have to speculate about what it is that I'm supposed to be doing when I'm in the studio. There're fewer decisions to make which allows you to make more work and develop it creatively within the confines of the rules that you set for yourself.


Greg and Ryan, denim, 2011, 120 x 33.5 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


A lot of your artwork features people you know. What was the motivation for doing this?

I'm a sincerity junkie. "Write what you know," is advice to stick to the truth of your experience. Artists don't deserve permission to trespass in other people's stories. Those stories are for other artists to tell. Image making is a form of power exercised on the people depicted. If I'm going to do that to others and make them vulnerable and subject to criticism, I am only going to do it with people I love. I refuse to be a tourist in other people's lives. That doesn't mean artists need to be strictly true or autobiographical, but they do need to be sensitive to how they use and depict the lives of others.


Jamie, denim, 2012, 30 x 15 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


Are you attempting to send a socio-economic message in your work?

Yes. It is no new thing to memorialize the lives of working people and their sacrifices to our shared economic benefit in art. However, I hope what I bring to it drains some the romanticism out of poverty and struggle. Romanticism wears off. What my work really does is investigate how the vast shift from manufacturing-based and agrarian-based economies to a service-based and knowledge-based economy is going to affect the lives of the vast number of people asked to make that transition. Framing it as I have around the lives of individual people that I know, keeps the viewer from being able to overlook them as generic others.

Harper, denim, 2010, 40 x 20 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


You work in 2D and sculptural pieces. Do you have a preference?

There are real differences between two-dimensional and three-dimensional work in the way I approach making them. While I don't have a preference, I do tend to gravitate more towards two-dimensional work as a result of my training. I think the right question about whether works should be two-dimensional or sculptural or installation or time-based or ephemeral or kinetic or painted or woven or sung or danced is what is its function? On my best days, that's the question I start with. Every other decision should be dictated by the results that I want to achieve.

Mackenzie, denim, 2012, 30 x 15 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.

Jim, denim, imitation gemstones, 2013, 96 x 60 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


Which do you find gives you the most satisfaction and why?

If everything is going all right in the studio, it doesn't matter what it is giving me the satisfaction. I work at things that are intentionally hard and with materials that are inherently bad at representation. I think I enjoy struggling with my work. Satisfaction comes from engaging with work that is whole and undivided. I have the pleasure of conceiving and executing work of my own design, and that is the highest and best form of work. Right now, the three-dimensional work is offering a lot of new technical challenges to overcome, and that's really enjoyable.


Yvette and Ansley, denim, 2010, 60 x 30 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

I don't think any one artist dominates the list, but the study of many artists gives you friends who have been dead for centuries. Gustave Courbet (French 1819–1877) was a painter who wrestled with similar subject matter in the intersection between high and low cultures, political activism, and scandal. Courbet's arrogance, disdain for authority, and talent are intoxicating. His pioneering realism, along with other artists of the post French Revolution and Napoleonic era, shares certain stylistic qualities and content goals with my own. However, the same can be said for many artists who've lived and died. Tintoretto, Goya, Gentileschi, Caravaggio, and Picasso, are all artists whose idiosyncratic production strikes a resonant chord.


Kristine, cut denim, wooden armature, 78 x 48 x 48 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?  

Jenny Saville (born 7 May 1970) is a contemporary British painter who explores her body, motherhood, and the passage of time in very sophisticated ways. I've always admired her work and the way in which she oscillates between representation and materiality. But she's obviously influenced by Lucian Freud, who was friends with Francis Bacon, and probably comes to the forefront of my mind because they are British and were working with the figure when it wasn't cool to be figurative.

Bill Watterson (Born 1958, Washington, D.C.) for his work and struggles with Calvin and Hobbes, which came to my home once a day during middle and high school. I think I learn more about composition, abstraction, satire, and rule-based creativity from reading his work than I did in any class in undergrad or graduate school.

Also, Vik Muniz's (1961, São Paulo, Brazil) use of material for their metaphoric properties is inspiring and I feel strong resonance with his work. He's interested in how magic works, where sugar comes from, and humour. A great introduction to his work can be found in the 2010 documentary "Wasteland".

I could add Nick Cave and Alexander McQueen and a litany of others less well known, but influence is everywhere if you are a broad-spectrum enthusiast.


Totemic Figures, denim, wooden structure, 2014, 78 x 48 x 48 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art and what do you see as the biggest challenge facing fibre artists?

Some of the most compelling works being done in contemporary arts is being done in the world of fibres. Fibres are inclusive by definition and contain techniques and material applicable to many ideas and interpretations. I think the role of any discipline is to make work that's impossible to ignore. John Baldessari's mantra of "I will not make any boring art," is a healthy place to start when positioning your self in the vast and diverse world of contemporary art. Fibre artists and artists in any specific discipline have to address how their work intersects with a broader arts world, and take responsibility for helping shape the narrative of how their work is received critically.


Totemic Figures, denim, wooden structure, 2014, 78 x 48 x 48 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


Are there any particular art related books that you refer to on a regular basis or from which you draw inspiration?

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking is a short, accessible, and pithy book that all makers should read. I suggest keeping it on the shelf next to Air Guitar‬: Essays on Art & Democracy‬. A wonderful, weird little book by Dave Hickey filled with essays on jazz, Hank Williams in Heaven, and Liberace.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬


Totemic Figures, denim, wooden structure, 2014, 78 x 48 x 48 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.

Totemic Figures, denim, wooden structure, 2014, 78 x 48 x 48 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


What interests you about the World of Threads Festival?

World of Threads is an ambitious, community driven project. One reason I make art is to help me use its transformative powers to engage with communities of people and help shape a world in which I want my three daughters to live. Festivals like World of Threads act as an aggregate for ideas and techniques and gives all of us insights into what types of things might be possible through art. Right now, the use of art as a lever for change is what interests me most, and this festival and other events like it act as a fulcrum that might allow me to pivot the course of humanity.


Totemic Figures, denim, wooden structure, 2014, 78 x 48 x 48 inches, denim applique, Photo: James Arendt.


You have been accepted into the World of Threads Festival 2014. What was your motivation for submitting your work for consideration?

I'm continuously looking for ways to share my work with others. Large-scale exhibitions like World of Threads are the perfect opportunity for many people to see my work and for me to see the work of others.



Studio, Photo: James Arendt.

Jim in Studio, Photo: James Arendt.

Jim in Studio, Photo: James Arendt.


Do you have any upcoming shows?

I have a solo exhibition at Penn College of Technology in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and works will be included in two separate group exhibition at Georgia State University and the Indianapolis Art Center next summer. The Tony Hungerford Memorial Gallery College of Southern Maryland has offered me a solo exhibition in the winter of 2016. (Looks like I better get back in the studio and make some more work.)

I will be exhibiting in the 2014 World of Threads Festival exhibition Solo Shows & Installations in the Corridor Galleries at Queen Elizabeth Park Community & Cultural Centre in Oakville, Ontario.



Subscribe To Artist Interviews here...

Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.


If you'd like to make a donation to help support our
"Weekly Fibre Artist Interviews" series, you can do so here.