South Jersey artist Danielle Cartier: ‘Listen to the world around you’

After a cross-country move from California to the Delaware Valley, Danielle Cartier has learned how to be a light packer, but the two things that the Gloucester County based artist always carries around with her?

Her sketchbook, and her curiosity.

Cartier always carried around her sketchbook growing up in California for inspiration, and was involved with set designs and T-shirt designs in high school. She later studied art at Sonoma State University in California, and decided to make the move to Philadelphia, a city with a vibrant mural scene she was eager to explore.

“I knew I wanted to move to Philadelphia,” says Cartier. “I wanted to learn from mural artists.”

While in Philadelphia, she learned about murals from Philadelphia Mural Arts, and later went to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating, she made the short trip across the Ben Franklin Bridge to Camden, where she got a residency at Camden FireWorks to make public art and murals in the City Invincible. 

“It’s been exciting for me to come to Jersey,” says Cartier.

When she started at FireWorks, she was assigned to make murals. “I made three murals that were based on a deck of cards,” says Cartier. “And I kept making murals, and now I keep making a whole bunch of murals in Camden.”

She was involved in the expansive public art project A New View Camden, and has received multiple grants from Camden County for projects. 

Cartier, who lives in Malaga, a Gloucester County town that borders Salem and Cumberland County, now wants to bring art to rural areas in South Jersey that don’t have the scene of its nearby, larger neighbors.

“There’s not really a great visual art scene,” says Cartier about Salem, Cumberland and rural Gloucester County. “In Millville there’s an art scene, and I’m trying to navigate my way there. Yes, there is a need in Camden for art, but there’s also a need for art in other places in South Jersey as well.”

‘We Live Here’ mural in Camden. Courtesy Cartier.

One of those cities that Cartier sees a need for art for is Bridgeton. Bridgeton, the county seat of Cumberland County is a lower-income majority-minority city. 

“I’ve been working for an artist based in Bridgeton, and it’s a very interesting city,” says Cartier. 

Regardless of whether a mural is in rural Gloucester County, or up the road from Route 55 in Camden, mural making is a process that includes several factors, and sometimes can be a long process.

“It depends on a couple things,” says Cartier about the mural-making process. “Like how big the wall is, how much help you have, the people who you are working with, and the wall space. There’s a lot of different things that come into play. “

Right now, Cartier is preparing for her showcase at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, which is hosting an exhibition of art in Camden. Besides Cartier’s exhibit, St Joe’s has had a viewing of “The Heart of Camden,” a documentary about Father Michael Doyle a former Camden priest.  In the future, there are talks about St. Joe’s students working with Cartier on a possible mural in Camden.

“It’s very exciting” says Cartier. “I’ll be showcasing all of my mixed media paintings at this exhibition. I’ll be showing digital collages that I’ve been working on, and showing some of my mural projects in digital form. I’m interested in creating art that is serving, and I view it as giving my talents to the world.”

The messages that Cartier tries to get across in her often-layered artwork is to “listen to the world around you, to look harder, and to be more observant.’’

Cartier says about her artwork: “I layer a lot of materials, and I do a lot of priming methods. With these studio paintings I try to camouflage different surfaces together.”

And it’s seen in her artwork. Cartier is an artist who is observant of her surroundings in her murals about Camden her paintings often nod to Camden’s Latino community, four wheelers, and geese, a common bird in South Jersey.

“Being an artist is not a 9-5 job,” says Cartier. “It’s a 24-7 job.”

Cartier is an adjunct professor at Stockton University in Atlantic County. She not only teaches her students about art, but how to handle themselves professionally as artists. 

Even though Cartier is preparing for an art gallery in Philadelphia, she has faced rejection multiple times. Cartier tries to tell her Stockton students that it is OK to be rejected, and to move onward and upward.

“There’s a lot of no’s” says Cartier about the art world. “I tell my students all the time that I get rejected. Artists don’t tell their students or other artists about all the times they are rejected from things. I’m constantly rejected from things and said no to. There’s a lot to learn and to navigate, but you keep going.”

One of the things that Cartier tries to tell her students is to never work for free. “Younger artists shouldn’t do their skill for free,” says Cartier. “Get paid for something, right? I try to be a real teacher for some of these younger students. When I was in school, I was late in learning things [not] on how to use materials, [but on] how to make my art a business. Like, ‘How do I make an artist biography; or, ‘How do I make an image list’, or, ‘How should I price my work,’ like all these business things.”

From Nov. 15 to Jan. 7, Marion Hall at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia will be presenting how to be heard from Danielle Cartier. There will be an artist talk on Nov. 16 at 12:30. For more information click here .