MAPLEWOOD, NJ — During the first few months of the school year, students in the art and photography classes at Columbia High School haven’t yet garnered enough time to develop and produce quality work to put in the school’s Domareki Gallery. However, this presented a prime opportunity for two alumni, Sarah Langsam and Josh Sender, now both professional artists, to return to their old high school.
Beginning Nov. 5, Langsam and Sender, both members of the CHS Class of 2009, will have their professional art on display in Columbia High School’s Domareki Gallery.
Langsam’s art includes wooden sculptures, three-dimensional pieces exploring the human relation to nature, pattern, repetitiveness and the use of repurposed materials, whereas Sender’s art includes two-dimensional photographic work that explores the history of photomaking and distillation of ideas into symbols.
“Their work is on opposite ends of the spectrum and I thought to myself, what a great show that would be,” CHS art teacher Jon Fisher, who spearheads the Domareki Gallery, said in a phone interview with the News-Record. “A technology guy and someone who does almost primal sculpture, what a good combination that would be.”
Last year, Fisher began considering hosting an alumni art show in the gallery. He has known Langsam’s family for years and, after seeing her work, asked if she would be interested in showcasing her art at the school.
“I thought, ‘wow, you’re doing some really cool sculptures and it is time for us to put a show together,’ and she was interested,” Fisher said.
Unfortunately, other commitments prevented Langsam from being able to produce enough work for a solo showcase, prompting her to reach out to her old classmate to do a joint show.
“We weren’t old friends or anything, but we happened to graduate in 2009 and were connected on Facebook,” she said. “His work is always popping up on my newsfeed, so I thought to ask him if he wanted to participate in the showcase with me.”
While they may not have always been in touch, they remember AP art and other art classes at Columbia, where they created art side by side.
Langsam and Sender spent a majority of their childhoods growing up in the Maplewood-South Orange area. After graduation, Langsam attended the University of Delaware. While at Columbia, she had been involved with the school magazine and yearbook, and intended to pursue a digital communications or graphic design program in college.
“I actually failed one of the track courses for the graphic design program and would have to wait to take the course over the following fall, so I took sculpture in the meantime,” Langsam said. “I registered late, really didn’t want to do it, then just started producing really great things and fell in love with it.”
After that, Langsam switched her major to fine arts, concentrating on sculpture. In 2013, she graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree.
Since then, Langsam has exhibited at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and has held residencies across the United States, including in Minnesota and Colorado. She has also had a site-specific installation inside the Nashville International Airport and site-specific installation in the Valley Arts District in Orange.
“I like the actual creation process of sculpting and I also find art to be therapeutic,” Langsam said.
Sender first took an interest in art while taking classes in Maplewood Village.
“I was drawing comics and illustrations, then was pushed more towards technical drawing and painting,” he said. “Alongside that, I was designing and building websites at the time to showcase my art; art and design went hand in hand.”
Sender didn’t think of art as any type of career. He thought it could only be a hobby.
“My junior year, my art teacher Mr. Testa asked our class to raise your hand if you are thinking of going to art school,” Sender said. “I hadn’t thought about art school at all but I raised my hand when he asked that.”
Sender attended The College of New Jersey after graduating from CHS and graduated in 2013 with bachelor of fine arts degree. He then earned his master’s degree in arts from the Maryland Institute College of Arts in 2016. He currently works full-time as a web designer and creates art as a side occupation.
“As a web designer, I can design an experience under the umbrella of art,” Sender said.
Sender has had the opportunity to showcase his art in Maryland, New York, New Jersey and a museum in Korea.
The opportunities he has had made him grateful for his school career at CHS.
“I realized how grateful I am for the kind of education I got at Columbia,” Sender said, adding that he has known others who “didn’t have the kind of art education I got and stopped drawing and being an artist entirely. I don’t think I would’ve allowed art to dominate my life the way I have if I wasn’t at Columbia.”
He encourages students today to think critically about what it means to make art today.
“What we consider and how we view art now in this moment of time is important,” Sender said.
Langsam said she is open to participating in more art shows with fellow alumni.
“It would be cool in the future to have a bigger alumni show with people showing just one or two pieces and having a lot of alumni contribute at the same time,” Langsam said.
Langsam said the showcase is a nice way to be able to give back to her community and alma mater.
“I’m happy to be able to give back and fill the space so students have something to look at,” Langsam said. “It’s important and inspiring for students who are artists and want to pursue this to see that it is something people are still doing.”
For Fisher, the opportunity to current CHS students to interact with Langsam and Sender is invaluable.
“I think it’s important for students here to see and hear from them because they could see, ‘they were me, not too long ago and now look they are doing things, having successes, enjoying and living life,’ and I think that’s also important,” Fisher said, adding that it also gives an opportunity for Langsam and Sender to reconnect with staff and faculty at the school.
Langsam and Sender’s work will be displayed in the Domareki Gallery from Nov. 5 to Nov. 30. The showcase is open during school hours and to the public at no cost.
Photos Courtesy of Sarah Langsam