Flint, MI — Buckham Gallery opened two exhibitions on June 25, its first shows since Michigan’s mask mandate and capacity restrictions were lifted last week. 

Though the concurrent exhibitions feature very different work, each hit home for their creators.

In the front of the gallery is “Selvage,” artist Jim Arendt’s first showing so near to his hometown of Clio, Michigan. “I just never had the opportunity to bring (my work) to the people that I know,” Arendt said of his 20-year career, “so I’m really happy.”

Arendt uses denim to create portraits of working class people. His models are usually his family members and others that he calls “nearly so.”

“Generally all the models that I work with are people that I know directly,” said Arendt, who trained as a painter and drawer but has since swapped his oil paints for denim, concrete, and coal.

“Oil paint was developed to depict flesh,” he said, “the flesh of kings … I’m depicting all of these primarily working class, middle class people. It didn’t feel like the right material after a while.”

“Selvage” was originally set to open in 2020, but the pandemic shifted that show to a virtual version on the gallery’s website. Michele Leclaire, Buckham Gallery’s executive director, said that online pivot was well received but she is thrilled to be able to offer a physical show now that Covid-19 cases are dropping.

“Opening those crates and pulling out Jim’s work,” Leclaire said, “it was like Christmas.”

For Arendt, it’s just as exciting to know Flint residents and visitors will have the opportunity to view the exhibition in person. 

“The fact that we’re back and able to give people real tangible experiences is really satisfying,” he said. “Art is one of those things that really comes alive when people talk about it in-person.”

In the back half of the gallery, is artist Candace Compton Pappas’s “At Home.”

The exhibition features various paintings, sculptures of houses, and other objects from around her home near Chelsea, Michigan, including a collection of cedar stumps and branches arranged to look like a small forest. “When I look at it, I just kind of smile,” said Compton Pappas.

At nearly 70 years old, “At Home” is the artist’s first exhibition, and deciding what work to display was new to her. “Of course, I wanted to put too much,” she laughed. “But in the end, I just so appreciated this space.”

Compton Pappas has been exploring the concept of home her whole career. “I’ve had a long time to process, and think, and search, and struggle in my life. And I as I get older I so enjoy, essentially, watching the walls around me kind of dissipate,” she said about her process for developing the exhibition.

But after a year in quarantine, Compton Pappas recognized how others may have only just started to consider what “home” means to them. “With COVID coming, it has forced us to shift our relationship to a lot of things,” she said.

But she hopes her work encourages viewers to embrace that disorder and challenge their beliefs about the concept of home. “(The show) is really being able to take a sledgehammer to your assumptions and fears,” she said. “It’s an opportunity.”

Both “Selvage” and “At Home” are on view at Buckham Gallery until July 24.

Kate Stockrahm

Kate is Flint Beat's business and nonprofit reporter. She joins the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered...