Jim Arendt, winner of the $50,000 prize in Lake City’s ArtFields, isn’t from Columbia, but he lived here for nine years before moving to Conway.
Arendt’s Jamie, a life-size image of a person lying on a couch made entirely of cut-up blue jeans, was picked by a combination of popular vote and jury selection.
“It’s an interesting problem to design work that is both appealing to an audience in general and art professionals. They are often drawn to competing criteria,” says Arendt. “I consciously attempt to design my work in such a way that it will thread that narrow path between logic and emotion. I like my work to appeal to both worlds, and work hard to make it so.”
Arendt, who grew up in Michigan, moved to Columbia to pursue a master of fine art degree at the University of South Carolina. David Voros, an assistant professor at USC, was a visiting artist at Kendall College of Art and Design where Arendt was studying and encouraged him to apply. After earning his degree in painting in 2005, he taught at the university and ran the S.C. State art gallery in Orangeburg for three years before becoming director of the Coastal Carolina University art gallery in late 2011. He is married to artist Yvette Cummings; they have two daughters.
The denim pieces are related to Arendt’s experience watching his father mend jeans tattered by farm work and welding and his desire to make art of material that reflects its content.
“I’m a sincerity junkie,” Arendt said in an interview with Free Times last year. “Oil paint is great for gods and kings, but for the people I wanted to depict, this material is truer to their experience.”
Arendt was included in the 701 Center for Contemporary Art Prize exhibition last year and his art was part of the first South Carolina Biennial exhibition at 701 CCA in 2011. Recently he showed in the Fiberart International at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and Rijswijk Textile Biennial in the Netherlands. He has a solo exhibition opening May 16 at the Sumter Gallery of Art.
“The prize will allow me to do that with some financial breathing room,” says Arendt. “I’d like to start a small fund for visual art students at S.C. State to provide future artists with promising work the same type of encouragement I have had.”