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. His work serves to highlight the relationship between value and identity, and to consider assumed ideals. The resulting work–both 2- and 3-dimensional surfaces–mines topics ranging from apprehension to beauty, ecology to politics.
The Illinois Arts Council has recognized his work with five individual artist fellowships. Bleem has also been awarded an Arts Midwest/NEA Regional Visual Arts Fellowship and numerous residencies including the Roswell Artist-in-Residence grant.
Bleem has taught in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2000. During the 2008-9 academic year, Arizona State University named him a visiting professor in its School of Art. His interests span historic and ethnographic textiles, the dynamics of collecting for artistic production, and material culture from popular and denominational religion.
In his writing, Bleem investigates the intersection of art and religion in a monthly column for U. S. Catholic magazine; his articles have also appeared in SDA Journal, Fiberarts and exhibition catalogs.