Poised with tool in hand, Jeffry Mitchell’s The Carpenter (2012) reaches forward, toward his workbench. It is difficult to tell whether the work represents just any carpenter or Christ, the most famous member of the profession and the subject of innumerable parables and artworks. His stilted pose is not too Messianic; drips of ochre glaze render his handiwork and hammer equally soft. Woodshop, table, man, and floor are lacquered together, spilling into one another and freezing the protagonist vulnerably in place.
In Man and Pet (2012), two benign ceramic figures smile sweetly upward. The man wraps his small companion in a hug, his arms extending in round arcs all the way to his feet. Though the expressions are strikingly similar—suggestive of Rockwellian Americana—the pet seems somewhat more genial and familiarly fuzzy than its owner, whose saurian pupils lend his face a reptilian air that belies his warm grin.
Though the title might suggest an Adonis, Jeffry Mitchell’s The Swimmer (2012) is a squat, jolly man with a protuberant belly. The stocky figure lets his arm drop to his side, towel dripping on the ground. Mitchell’s umber-toned glaze makes everything look earthy and wet, primordial and warm.
The Seattle-based sculptor Jeffry Mitchell creates cartoonlike creatures from low-fire earthenware. Their sympathetic expressions and modest size, combined with Mitchell’s style of globular, additive assembly, makes them seem accessible and charming, as if they want to be held. They are reminiscent of characters from Peanuts or The Flintstones, but they also draw on art historical tropes as potent and ancient as sex and religion. Beneath their unassuming facades they harbor a generous heap of musing, tongue-in-cheek critique.