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As his fall 2020 solo exhibition at the Riverside Arts Center approached, what was supposed to be a 20 year retrospective no longer seemed appropriate to Jerry Bleem. The violence directed at people of color and the ensuing Black Lives Matter movement called for a response. Bleem and his curator Anne Harris decided to reopen his Nationalism series and make that the focus of Bleem’s exhibit Still. This talk examines the exhibit’s evolution and his Nationalism series.
[Image description: Promotional poster with cream and white text on a maroon background. There is an image of a gallery space. On the back wall is a red and white American flag. A very long, thin crocheted work in red, white and blue zig-zags across the floor and walls, ending in a ball of yarn.]
Jerry Bleem, an artist, teacher, writer, Franciscan friar and Catholic priest, earned his M.F.A. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his M.Div. from the Catholic Theological Union at Chicago.
As an artist, Bleem examines the cultural construction of meaning by looking at what we discard and by transforming the nonprecious through time-intensive accumulation. The resulting work—both 2- and 3-dimensional surfaces—raises issues ranging from apprehension to beauty, ecology to politics. The Illinois Arts Council has recognized his work with seven grants and individual artist fellowships. Bleem has also participated in numerous residencies including the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program.
Bleem has taught in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2000. His interests span historic and ethnographic textiles, the dynamics of collecting, and material culture expressive of popular religious practices. In his writing, Bleem investigates the intersection of art and religion in a monthly column for U. S. Catholic magazine; his essays have appeared in journals and exhibition catalogs.