Sowing the seeds of love for art making

by Keith Barber

Local artist Jan Detter helped create the mosaic work, “A Thousand Flowers,” with six students from the Enrichment Center as part of the exhibit Metaphorically Speaking. (photo by Keith T. Barber)

One mixed-media sculpture included in the exhibit Metaphorically Speaking, currently on display at the Enrichment Center in Winston-Salem, holds great personal significance for local artist Jan Detter.

Detter created “Mom Gets Her Wings and Moves On,” a mixed media sculpture after the passing of her mother.

“The poem that was sort of the inspiration for this piece was after my mother died, you’re asking yourself a lot of questions,” Detter explained. “One of the big questions I was asking myself was, ‘How did my mother, who felt to me like such a rigid person, die with such tremendous grace and finesse?’ Because she was a very, very conventional woman and very unbending, unyielding woman, yet when she faced her death she was the opposite of that. I couldn’t figure that out.”

Detter’s philosophy of art shines through as one closely examines the sculpture composed of discarded objects.

“One of the things that’s really wonderful about being an artist is that I think art can help answer questions that you can’t answer yourself — the process of art making can often give us the answers we seek,” Detter said.

There is a figurine of an angel perched on top of a bell-shaped glass. Encased under the dome is a pewter figure of a woman holding up a basket with a house inside.

“From my perspective, my mother was trapped under the weight of being a mother, being a wife, being a very religious, sort of a conventional, rigid person with all these little platforms she spent a life building and holding up in the air,” Detter said.

She came to understand that when her mother received a terminal diagnosis she felt she no longer had to hold up that metaphorical basket of home and hearth. She could finally put her arms down.

“She had this five-week party — the day she got her diagnosis to the day she died was five weeks,” Detter said. “It’s like I saw a whole different woman that I didn’t even know was my mother.”

All of Detter’s work in Metaphorically Speaking features found objects that are melded together transform into something greater than the sum of their parts. There are imperfections in each element, which express Detter’s view of the human condition. A ceramic plate that supports the pewter figure is cracked and has a sliver missing. Detter said she drew her inspiration from the Leonard Cohen lyrics, “Ring the bells that still can ring/ forget your perfect offering/ ‘cause there’s a crack in everything./ That’s how the light gets in.”

Detter’s mixed media sculptures are being exhibited alongside the work of local artist Dempsy Calhoun. A mixed media sculptor with 40 years of experience, Calhoun will display his series Thriver Survivor, which features pieces made from wind-tower blades. Dempsy will also exhibit a number of his ink-and-colored-pencil drawings in the show, which runs through Sept. 16.

Metaphorically Speaking was designed as a complement to the public art installation A Thousand Flowers created by Detter and six Enrichment Center students. Detter and the students created the piece during a transformative four and a half month experience.

“I hope that what they’re finding out as we’re working together is, ‘Oh, wow, this is something I can now and go and tell my own stories,’ so it’s kind of like Johnny Appleseed,” Detter said. “I want to plant the seed maybe not overtly but perhaps by modeling that art is a great way of getting a chance to be more authentic because you get a safe place to tell the truth.”

wanna go?

The Enrichment Center

1006 S. Marshall St. Winston Salem