Jeffry Mitchell and Joey Veltkamp were innocently sitting in a corner of Cupcake Royale this morning when we arrived with Mitchell's Genius cake, at which point Mitchell turned bright red, cried, wiped his eyes, said thank you, cried again, wiped his eyes again, and then said he would like to call his mother.
She was not in. Neither was his brother. "He's one of a brood of nine, you know," said Veltkamp, a fellow artist and the awesome Best Of blogger.
Mitchell, eventually put both hands in the air, which caused Veltkamp to say, "Two paws up," and it also caused his owl belt buckle to be seen in full ("it digs into my belly," he said sheepishly), which caused me to be jealous, because it is a great belt buckle.
This is, undeniably, Jeffry Mitchell's year, and Jeffry Mitchell is, undeniably, a genius.
Eventually, the artist Leo Saul Berk (hey!) called Mitchell's phone and became the first person Mitchell told about the award. "Isn't that good?" Mitchell said in his characteristic half-sheepishness/half-straight-upness. "Yeah, I'm all teary and happy," he continued. Berk asked to talk to me. "You couldn't have picked a better person!" Berk announced immediately.
We agree, Leo.
Here's what I wrote about Mitchell in "The 25 Greatest Works of Art Ever Made in Seattle":
Jeffry Mitchell, Pickle Jar with Silver Elephants, 2007
Two same-species lovers with long protuberances: Jeffry Mitchell poses gay love as ridiculously encoded, only discussable via elephants or elephantine euphemisms, or in childish terms. There are difficult ideas here (and considered traditions, too, like the Quaker pickle jar the underlying form is based on), but you come to those later. First you hit the surface: a forest pile of flowers and berries and vines and tree branches and pretzels and hidden rabbits and a horseshoe and what looks like the face of a bear. These are fat fleshy loops made out of breakable ceramic, coated—but only coated, and only lightly—in the refinement of pretty white and platinum luster. Underneath, in the earthenware itself, unperfected finger pinches and crude little marks are still visible: There's always the memory of softness. Instead of irony there is wonder, humor, humility, and a warmth so intense you may as well call it love. Actually, that's it: No other Seattle artist has come close to producing as much sheer love as Jeffry Mitchell.
See the jump for a picture of how happy these awards make not only the receiver, but the giver. I love Genius Day!
UPDATE: Mark your calendars for the party. It's November 13 at the Moore!