Nothing To See by Amanda Gentry


Years ago I bore witness to a friend as she was diagnosed, for the first time, with breast cancer. She managed it the way I have experienced her manage all things in her life, good or bad, with honesty and humor. I had been living with her at the time. I knew she was going to the doctor to get the results of her biopsy and I had stepped out of the house to run a few errands. When I got back I found her in tears. Afraid. Angry. And doing her best to express what she could of it, finding herself at a loss for words. After the anger had cleared and the humor surfaced, she started planning a Farewell to My Boob party where she invited her closest girlfriends over, all of whom arrived with a poem and a beautifully wrapped prosthetic (a balloon, a pair of socks, a fist full of cotton balls, etc.).

While I had been living with her, I had not been invited to the party, I was too young. At the time I was more like a daughter to her and my presence didn’t feel appropriate. This past year I started exploring a simplified breast form in the studio and decided to make a pair out of porcelain inspired by my witnessing of that time. Before I put these forms into the bisque fire they were perfect. Flawless. Not a single crack. When I pulled them out of the bisque they were fractured all over. I was disappointed and considered them a loss. But a woodfire was on the horizon and I thought I’d toss them in to fill up the space. What came out was violently beautiful and very much a metaphor for the journey she experienced in her body. When I shared this photo with her she forwarded me a poem she had written during a darker hour of her process. With her permission I share it with you:

Gashes and torn flesh,
Police at the perimeter:
“Move along! Nothing to see here!”
Nothing to see.
Where once soft mounds of flesh invited his view,
Summoned his caress,
Now, a silent patrol that only she can hear:
“Move along! Nothing to see here.”
Gone the unblemished beauty.
Nothing to see here.
Scooped and scraped; excavated.
Inadequate efforts—the best that science and art can conceive and construct—
replications that are almost a mockery of God’s original gift.
Scarred and misshapen,
best hidden.
“Move along! Nothing to see here.”
Nothing to see.

In reading her poem the piece was titled. Nothing To See. I am continually amazed at a woodfire and how in having the last word the kiln often improves upon and compounds the intention behind the work. The end result is not perfect. But it is the imperfection that inspires contemplation and a search for meaning.

A Tooth for a Tooth by Amanda Gentry


Dear Dr. Marcus,

I realized when I arrived at my last appointment that I had not yet sat down to email you the background on the piece I gifted you last year. For the record, these are the official details, with the story below:

Don't Get Too Discouraged, 2015, 9.25" x 12.5" x 6.5", Salt glazed porcelain.

This piece signifies some breakthroughs for me as an artist. This is the first piece that was not what I set out to make. I generally have a tight sketch or idea that I intend to realize. This piece originally was going to be oriented the other way (what is bottom was to be top). It was going to have a rocking, convex bottom with the two extentions coming to points twice the length they currently are. I realized as I was making this that I would need to rotate it and refine the bottom (now top) as I would not be able to do so once the two points were put on it. Upon rotating it and looking at it upside down I realized that it was perfect—that it needed to have the orientation it now has. It was the first time I had looked at a work from a different perspective and allowed myself to change my plans. It was the first time I truly listened to the work.

I had high hopes for this piece when I put it in the kiln. When it came out with cracks I felt defeated. I brought it back to my studio and tucked it away in my shelves. I was certain I would take a hammer to it in six months time. A few months passed and an artist rep came for a studio visit. I had pulled all of my "good" work out onto the tables for her to see. After looking at everything she asked if she could look in my shelves. She pulled out my disappointment and said, "Oooh. Tell me about this one!" I promptly apologized for the cracks and she said, "Are you kidding me?! They follow the movement of this piece. They're perfect." I left the piece out on my studio bookcase and started to see it with new eyes. She was right. The cracks made the piece. And the piece then became beautiful to me. This perspective has changed the way I see my work now. The kiln always has the last word. And often times that comes in the form of cracks or spots I had not intended. I realize now that they are the birthmarks of the work. They are kisses from the kiln goddess.

As such, I named the piece after one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie ever, Harold & Maude. (If you haven't seen it, you must.) At one point Maude hot-wires a priest's car and takes it for a joy ride. Upon returning it she sees the priest. He says, "Hey, are you the woman who stole my car?" She says, "I suppose I am! Did you like what I did to the St. Christopher medal that was hanging from the mirror?" With a scowl he says, "I absolutely did not!". She says, "Aww. Don't get too discouraged. For aesthetic appreciation, always a little time!"

This past summer, when I tried my luck at cheaper dentistry, I quickly became discouraged. When you so willingly agreed to re-do what had been poorly done I wanted to return the kindness by giving you something of value to me. I found it rather uncanny that the piece, titled well before my dental fiasco, kind of looked like a tooth. And, that it was made of porcelain, like my crown, made it clear to me that it belonged to you.

I pulled the piece from the gallery that represents me where they had it priced at $1200—the value of which cannot compare to the kindness and generosity I have received. I cannot thank you enough. For your integrity and the high regard with which you hold your profession. And most of all, for reminding me of the goodness that we are all capable of.

With gratitude,

From Product to Process by Amanda Gentry


Late last week I was in the studio sanding down bisqueware to the companionable, slow ticking of my kiln as it crawled up to temperature. The kiln had been firing for over 24 hours and by this time was at 1043˚—well past the "blow up" stage where residual trapped moisture forces its way out by means of explosion. And so, when I heard a sudden, soft and earthy boom, sound from within the kiln, I was beside myself. (I immediately got my technical firing guru on the phone to trouble shoot this mystery. We've got some ideas but I'm not going to bore you with the technical.) After the first, obvious exclamation, came a second which was preceded by a grin and chuckle: "It's a good a thing I love the making."

It's a mind shift I've been witnessing over the past two to three years. What is created is no longer precious to me. My relationship is not with the end product. My relationship is with the process. A boom in the kiln used to ruin my day. Now it simply makes me curious. 

A Curious Form by Amanda Gentry

I've been noticing with the work I have been making recently that the meaning of the form and its relationship to my inner world compounds and becomes multi-layered in the making process. Initially, at the start, it seems strictly formal—I am curious about a shape, a curve, a thruway of negative space—only to find that the ultimate creation is a reflection of thoughts and emotions working themselves out in my heart and mind by way of my hands. It's quite possibly a chicken and egg thing: whether or not the subconscious has determined the form or it has intuited and attributed meaning to it in attempts to literally materialize understanding, I'm not quite sure.

My current work-in-progress is titled, Every Breath We Drew (as I was singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah! in the building phase). The piece almost feels like a pregnant belly: full, taut, at the culmination of expansion. A portal, wide at one end and tapered to the diameter of a penny at the other, almost gasps for air. I feel a strong association of this form to that of an individual at birth and death—and every breath we drew was Hallelujah. Hallelujah!—the taking of one’s first breath, the surrender of one’s last. Hallelujah! A holy and reverent fullness. All of this on the heels of my bearing witness to the last breath of one Theodore Patras, a beautiful man who invited me to share with him the last few months of his life. I've held this sacred experience within, without words, exploring it like a tongue explores the vacancy of a pulled tooth. This powerful experience making sense of itself and communicating to me through a form that, at the outset, was simply a curious form.

Magic Camera by Amanda Gentry

A few weeks ago my good friend and photographer, Mark Smalling, came to my studio for what has become an annual photo shoot cataloging the work from the year before. I had not been creating in the studio for close to two months. Spring and summer had me actively creating my share of a kiln load that was fired in late September. And all of the work was completed for the firing, having not left a piece in process to call me back into the studio. (Note to self: ALWAYS leave a piece in process.) As any artist knows, time away from the work can mess with one's head. At least it does for this artist. I start to doubt myself: whether I have any good ideas, whether I have ever had any good ideas, whether what I've already created is any good. Clearly these thoughts are highly unmotivational—they multiply like evil rabbits in my head, making it increasingly difficult to call myself back to my clay. But all of that myopic thinking magically lifts when Mark starts to shoot the work. The dark cloud of doubt lifts when I see the work staring back at me from the objective lens of his camera. While I am most grateful for the documentation of the work and the considered attention that Mark brings to it, I am more grateful for what it does for my spirit, calling me back to make more and reminding me that what I have already made is pretty damn good.

Thank you, Mark.

To see Mark's work, visit his website at:

Seen by a Stranger by Amanda Gentry

Brother John, Josie

Recently I was notified by Instagram that I had been tagged in a few posted images. Curious, I followed the trail and found louiseandmaurice. Upon further clicking, I landed on the blog site of Chicago-based artist and writer, Erinn M. Cox, and immediately found a review of my most recent show, I Am Here, at Lillstreet Art Center. I'll admit it. I Google Amanda Gentry from time to time to see what pops up. But this bumping into myself on the internet was completely out of the blue and unexpected. I started to read and my eyes filled with tears. I was overcome by the notion that a perfect stranger would not only take the time to be with my work but would then turn around and put their experience of it into words. While that act alone moved me, the review itself captured the emotional takeaway that I've always hoped my work would have on another, leaving me feeling as though I had been truly seen. Thank you, perfect stranger.