Kids glimpse their teacher’s artwork at two locations

North Bergen resident inspires students with gallery exhibits

As part of a Hudson County Community College exhibit of local teachers’ work, North Bergen resident Jill Schifter recently took roughly 60 of her fifth grade art students on a field trip to the Gabert Library in Jersey City on Nov. 5 to view her work for the first time.

Schifter is having her work showcased at two locations on campus as part of the college’s Department of Cultural Affairs exhibit, “Teachers as Artists.”

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Her displayed work at the Gabert library uses a variety of techniques including drawing and collage, and explores questions of self-image, gender constructs, cultural trauma, and environmental destruction.

Schifter was born in Brooklyn and has lived in Upstate New York, Philadelphia, London, Israel, Hoboken, Jersey City, and West New York. She then settled in North Bergen.

She obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from Syracuse University and Master of Fine Arts in painting from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

She said that she draws inspiration from the world around her.

“It’s hard not to,” she said. “You can’t help but be affected by what’s around you.”

Her work has several themes, including gender identity, environmental concerns, and the Syrian refugee crisis.

“My work is deep. I don’t expect everyone to get it,” she said.

She uses a variety of methods and techniques and patterns. Repetition is heavily featured in her work. She said she finds repetition calming.

“Sometimes I get lost in it and I have to pull myself out,” laughed Schifter.

She also uses a variety of materials including charcoal, pencil, and black India ink.

One of her collages in particular, called “Uprise,” uses torn up pieces of some of her prior work, which allowed her new piece to feel fragmented.

“For this piece, in particular, I wanted it to feel broken and fragmented,” said Schifter. “I wanted it to feel like your past doesn’t really ever actually go away. It doesn’t leave you.”

Her pieces at the North Hudson Library in Union City, she said, are very different, as they take inspiration from her mother’s passing.

Her mother passed away three years ago from ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Because of this, Schifter has begun to interpret and draw inspiration from science, including the study of neuroanatomy and the biomimicry of nature.

Many of her pieces took two to three months to create, which she does at her in-home studio, when she is not teaching at the Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City.

Schifter said it was a bit exposing to show her work to her students, but believed it was an important learning opportunity for them. She said one of her goals while teaching is to get them thinking about art.

“They were able to talk about the work, and if they were able to talk about the work, they can go to museums with their family, or they can be walking in downtown jersey city and see a mural,” she said, “and they might recognize a technique or use the vocabulary and that’s what I see as successful.”

“I was really curious to see what type of artist she was outside of the classroom,” said student Yehia Ibrahin.

Another student, Eduardo De Los Santos,  who said he wants to be an artist when he grows up, said he was surprised by his teacher’s work. “It was so detailed,” he said. “In class, she shows us things very simply, and this wasn’t like that. It was cool to see her work.”

The gallery

Schifter’s work is on exhibit at two locations at Hudson County Community College: the Gabert Library at 71 Sip Ave in Jersey City, and the North Hudson Library at 4800 Kennedy Blvd. in Union City.

This exhibition, “Teachers as Artists,” celebrates the creativity of educators in Hudson County and offers solo shows at both campus libraries. The opportunity is open to educators of all grade levels who live or work in Hudson County.

For more information and to submit work contact Michelle Vitale Mvitale@hccc.edu. For more information on the exhibit or the gallery contact gallery@hccc.edu.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com or comment online at hudsonreporter.com

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