Welcome to another segment of “Artist Spotlight.” It is my pleasure to introduce to some, and present to others, artist Jan-Ru Wan. For the month of May, Jan-Ru Wan’s Unspeakables will be displayed in the Nicholson Gallery for all to peruse and experience. The opening reception for Unspeakables is on May 13 at 7 p.m. at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, NC. It will feature musical selections from Sisters’ Voices. This stunning exhibition tells a story of many women who have experienced violence and oppression. Unspeakables gives a voice to those who feel as though they have lost theirs.
When I first saw Unspeakables, I was honestly speechless. There was a time, I felt as if I had no voice. I believe this exhibition tells so many stories, but when I peruse the Nicholson Gallery, I cannot help but to think of my own story of survival and triumph.
“The muted bells and fragile ceramic spoons symbolize the voices that have been represented or forced into silence. These works embody the repression and violence that are often committed in order to keep women submissive and silent” -Jan-Ru Wan
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, Jan-Ru Wan about Unspeakables. Below is a transcript of our conversation.
CHASYAH SCOTT: Please, tell the audience a little about yourself and how your artistic career began.
JAN-RU WAN: When I was little, I was an extremely introverted child and I used the making of things to express my own feelings without knowing this could be called “ art.” Then in 1993 I went to the Art Institute of Chicago which changed my life.
I have been a professional artist for 26 years.
CHASYAH SCOTT: What can you say you enjoy most about creating?
JAN-RU WAN: Creating is a meditative process for me, and making things with my own hands helps me to think and to understand things or events around me.
CHASYAH SCOTT: What inspired you to create Unspeakables?
JAN-RU WAN: This particular exhibition has been planned and created for the past two years; obviously they are related to the crazy political environment, such as losing rights for women, LGBTQIA and BIPOC communities, and the chaotic world we live in, and also how life has been altered through the COVID pandemic.
Artist Statement: Jan-Ru Wan
In my three-decade art career, materials have played an important role in my installations. As an introverted child who rarely spoke in public, I found my voice through making things and presenting objects as metaphors, which became the vocabulary of my art. In this exhibition, I use various materials to address a range of human experience, such as, longing, abandonment, loss, constraint, chaos and horror.
In my work, “Lost Footing,” I include dyed, printed and hand sewn silk organza; armrests from discarded theater seats; and various objects collected from dumpsters, streets, and my archives to address the state of chaos and displacement created through man-made or natural disasters. I orchestrate and finalize the entire work during installation in the gallery.
Women’s voices have often been overlooked, ignored, dismissed and silenced throughout history and in many cultures all over the world. In my series, “ Whispers” and “ song Without Words”, the subtle embroidered text on the translucent collars is easy to overlook, making it a visual representation of women’s voices not being heard or dismissed. The muted bells and fragile ceramic spoons symbolize the voices that have been represented or forced into silence. These works embody the repression and violence that are often committed in order to keep women submissive and silent. The objects in these works, however are meant to elevate and amplify the voices of all the women and others who have been silenced. Their voices exist through the objects’ materials presence and we can feel the resilience of the feminine weather spoken out loud or present in silence.
For more information about Jan-Ru Wan visit JanRuWan.com. Visit The ArtsCenter today and experience Unspeakables for yourself. The ArtsCenter is located at 300-G East Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510.
Chasyah L Scott is the Marketing Director and Gallery Manager at The ArtsCenter. For more information about The ArtsCenter and the Nicholson Gallery visit ArtsCenterlive.org.