"Social Norms was painted at a turbulent time in Gentry’s life: her transition to a group home. When home with her family on the weekends, she would paint to “release her emotions on canvas” which she would later type when she learned to communicate using facilitated communication the following year. Often typing about her body failing to listen to her mind, “Social Norms” beautifully expresses her desire to fit into the panorama of society. True to form, Gentry’s larger pieces are done outside in nature with breaks taken swimming in between." - Amy, Gentry's mom.
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“I have a good gift of colors in my brain.”
Gentry is a strong, passionate young woman who uses her art to advocate for those who do not communicate verbally. Born in Indianapolis, she moved to Jacksonville Beach, FL at age 7. Growing up, Gentry and her family searched for alternative ways that she could express herself, as verbal communication was not possible.
At age 12, she attended the inaugural Rainbow Artist Camp, a ground-breaking art instruction program for children on the autism spectrum, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville. This proved to be a pivotal moment for her. Her mother shares, “For the first time in her life, Gentry had a medium that allowed her feelings and vantage point of the world to be expressed.” From this point, Gentry began utilizing art as a tool of expression and power. Throughout her teenage years and into adulthood, creating art was her primary form of communication.
At age 18, Gentry learned a new tool to help express her thoughts: typing. As a non-verbal individual, typing opened up a new way for Gentry to share her perspective. On paper, she voiced that she wanted more out of life for her and her peers who live with autism. This revelation was powerful, as it inspired her mom and community members to create an organization to meet this need: Peace of Heart Community. Her mom shares, “We recognized she needed access to her voice 24-7 and Peace of Heart assures that vital need is met.” At age 24, Gentry officially moved into a group home at Peace of Heart Community with peers who also live with autism.
“Gentry learned to type to communicate and shares that her body often doesn't listen to her mind. Her art is an exception because art allows her to filter her autism by keeping undesired motor movements and vocalizations at bay,” shares her mom.
Since learning to type, Gentry has begun communicating her inner thoughts about her life and her art. When asked how she starts a new piece, Gentry types “I try to paint the color in my brain.” Gentry's creations are a menagerie of vibrant colors and bold brushstrokes, often layered many times, that give others a glimpse of her interpretation of the world...a world that she says affords her a "good gift of colors." Gentry shares, “Brightness is how I see life. Big and busy.”
Gentry uses her entire body to paint – making it a very active and gestural creation process. She loves large canvases, where she has room to create big, impactful paintings. She even takes breaks to swim between her painting sessions! Her favorite mediums include watercolor and acrylic paints, for the way they “grip the canvas” and convey movement. As Gentry has progressed in her art, her style has become less concrete and more surreal. Through this progression, Gentry has gained recognition. In 2020, Gentry was named Ponte Vedra Cultural Center’s Top Emerging Artist. She was also featured in Arbus Magazine of Jacksonville and also Autism File Magazine, helping her to spread her art and story.
Gentry is passionate about giving all individuals a platform and raising awareness about non-verbal communication. Gentry types, “To have a voice is to be human.” She has written essays about being voiceless in society, giving others a glimpse into her life. She hopes that sharing her art and story will give hope to others who live with similar experiences.
Speaking on the impact of being a part of ArtLifting, her mom shares, “It means everything to her to have the opportunity to share her art with a nationwide audience. It will give her the meaning and purpose she longs for.” Autism affects Gentry’s ability to control her body, which makes representing her art at shows and galleries difficult. ArtLifting provides an avenue for her to spread her artwork without competing against these physical needs.
Looking towards the future, Gentry hopes to build a career in art and be able to explore other mediums that further unleash her creativity. She would love to continue collaborating with artists and organizations to create murals and large-scale paintings. When she’s not creating, Gentry enjoys hanging out with her support staff. They get their nails done, swim and go out to eat. She also helps in the Peace of Heart Community garden where she plants vegetables that are sold at the weekly farmer’s market. Gentry’s potential is enormous and ArtLifting is excited to be supporting her through her artistic endeavors.
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.