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.