Art Majors Work with Pros in Gallery’s Visiting Artist Program


Sophomore Liam Deibert, of Galloway, sits with his sculpture that depicts a honey pot that has tipped over with the honey pouring out in front of it. The Visual Arts major said it took he about 10 days to create it.

Galloway, N.J. — Senior visual arts major Onyx Alamgir admitted she was a little intimidated at first.

She was one of about 40 Stockton students given an opportunity to include their work as part of an exhibition with two professional artists at the university’s Art Gallery in March.

“I thought German artists, oh my, this is clearly more advanced,” said the Egg Harbor Township native. “But they were the most chill and sweetest artists to collaborate with.”

Onyx Alamgir

Senior visual arts major Onyx Alamgir, of Egg Harbor Township, poses with her sculpture that she made as part of the Art Gallery exhibit “Dwell & Dusk: The Incredible in the Mundane.”

The visiting artist program was put together by Ryann Casey, the gallery’s exhibition coordinator, and Mariana Smith, an associate professor of Art and the chair of the Visual Arts major. The idea was to not only bring outside artists’ work to the gallery, but to also have the artists live near campus for an extended period and give students a sense of what it’s like to be a working, professional artist.

“For us, the visual arts are much more effective if you can get someone into the space and work with students hands-on,” Casey said. “We would like to do more programming like this every semester to make sure that students are having access to people outside of faculty and adjuncts.”

Smith mentioned that she knew artists Elizabeth Gerdeman and Michael Hahn, who are based in Lepizig, Germany, and that led to their latest exhibition “Dwell & Dusk: The Incredible in the Mundane” to be installed in Stockton’s Art Gallery for the spring semester. Their work has a distinctive focus on the environment and climate change.

“Mariana knew that our work was very site-specific and how that would work with the idea of bringing artists on location and then working with students,” Gerdeman said. “We want to get the students more involved with their daily environments, both here at Stockton, but also how that translates into their daily lives away from campus.

“It just made sense to actually be here to do that with the students themselves.”

The artists have been on campus for the last three weeks, lecturing in classes and holding workshops where they challenged the students to create original artwork that would be included in their exhibit.

Ben Laster

Sophomore Ben Laster, of Delran, holds his elephant sculpture.

Gerdeman helped the students create viewfinders, which are paper cutouts that are illustrated or painted on. They are then placed in an outside environment and photographed. The result is a striking synergy between the three forms of art.

Junior Marissa Niceler, of Egg Harbor City, began her viewfinder project by pouring cola on it. Then, after the paper took on a darker hue, she added colored scribbles and even parts of a QR code. She took a photo of the viewfinder in front of a staircase near the Performing Arts Center on campus.

“It was very unique how you can incorporate art with reality,” said the Visual Arts major with a concentration in studio art and painting. “I’ve been kind of exploring abstracting reality in class, but this viewfinder opportunity really expressed that to a whole new level. I was able to work with something I never have before, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Hahn worked with several students to create pollinating insect sculptures using found materials. After the exhibit closes on April 7, the sculptures will have a new home in Stockton’s Sustainability Farm.

“It’s a lot for a one-week workshop, but I think everyone had fun,” Hahn said. “That’s the most important thing. Everyone was into it. I absolutely enjoyed the time with the students. I wish I had a little bit more.”

Sophomore Liam Deibert, of Galloway, was drawn to the idea that what he created would have some impact on the environment. His sculpture, which he had about 10 days to create, depicts a honey pot that has tipped over with the honey pouring out in front of it.

Marissa Niceler

Junior Marissa Niceler, of Egg Harbor City, holds the image she took with her viewfinder. 

“This project definitely stretched my brain a little bit,” said the Visual Arts major with a concentration in interdisciplinary visual arts. “And working with these artists really improved my skills. Just being as creative as possible and using things you already have. Being confined with material, but not confined creatively.”

Gerdeman and Hahn also met with the Creative Collective, a student art club on campus, to discuss career-oriented subjects, such as how to build a resume and a website to showcase your work. Alamgir said the artists’ meeting with the group was extremely impactful and engaging.

“If you are an incoming student and you aren’t sure if you want to commit to the visual arts, this is a great way to gain insight into that world,” she said. “You get hands-on experience and it definitely gives you a boost of confidence.”

The fact that the students were able to have their work displayed as part of a professional artist exhibit was another major goal of the program, Casey said.

“One of the things that we talk about a lot when you are a professional artist is your exhibition record,” she said. “If you can, as an undergrad, have CV work, and have exhibition experience, that’s so important.”

That’s huge for Ben Laster, a sophomore Visual Arts major in the K-12 Teacher Certification program.

“Now that it’s in this gallery, I can have my portfolio and say I was in this show. It just adds a level of credibility to what I do now,” said the Delran native, whose sculpture was modeled after his favorite animal, an elephant. “It’s definitely something, as a future art teacher, I’m going to push my students to seek out. Find people that are more experienced than you. Work with them. Learn from them.”

The exhibit and the art gallery are free and open to the public noon to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday to Sunday. For more information, call 609-652-4214.

— Story by Mark Melhorn. Photos by Lizzie Nealis

Elizabeth Gerdeman and Michael Hahn

German artists Elizabeth Gerdeman, left, and Michael Hahn worked with Stockton Visual Arts students for three weeks at the end of February and the beginning of March.