I think it may just be a personality trait… wanting to create perfection. I remember striving to create that flawless print piece, the perfect composition, the ideal image. It seemed impossible… in my own mind. There was always something that could be better. The idea of creating something—anything—that is flawless, seems flawed. But it’s not. It’s all about perception.
Last week, I stopped by the Hofheimer Gallery to experience “Earth Bound”—a group exhibition that includes work by Amanda Gentry, David Criner and Denise Bellezzo. The exhibition offers an array of unique visual voices that come together in a peacefully inviting environment.
I was greeted by a wall of—what seemed to be—white bed pillows floating in a grid formation... work by Amanda Gentry. Upon closer inspection, the pillows appeared to be subtly marked with ghostly impressions of artifacts—quiet remnants of a hidden past. And then it became evident that the soft floating pillows were actually earthenware. Each piece, the clay impression of a soul at rest. Each, the unique fingerprint of a moment in time. Together, the impression of a segment of society. The works became an archeological find, perhaps asking the question; What will we leave to those who survive us? Will they notice? Will they remember?
Brother John, Unglazed White Talc Earthenware Incised with Mason-stained Slip, 17"x14"x5"
Penland Studies Nos.1-5, 3.5"x5.5"x5.5" salt and charcoal-fired stoneware
I continued thinking about the Gentry’s work after leaving the gallery. I did a little research and found a wonderful story on the artist’s website. The story described a seemingly unsuccessful piece of work and a studio visit with an Artist Representative. Following is an excerpt of the story. You can read the story in its entirety at amandagentry.com
“This piece (above) 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 extensions 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.”
4823 N. Damen | Chicago, IL. 60625 | 847.274.7550
Work by Amanda Gentry