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I Have a Winter Friend

November 16, 2021 to December 24, 2021



Jeffry Mitchell
I Have a Winter Friend

On a midnight walk, my friend Frank looked up into the clear, night sky at the constellation Orion and exclaimed, “My Winter Friend!”
I was shocked with delight—what a great way to look at the world, what a great expression. The naming of the winter skies’ stars as friends brings me warm reassurance in a dark and cold season, and simply speaking the phrase “My Winter Friend,” realigns my relationship with the cosmos. It delights me because it both ignites the poetics of nature and lets me hold and treasure all my friendships: cosmic, celestial, and human.

Friendships are keystones to my survival and my work. My friend Barry introduced me to my friend Peter, where he and his friend Ying Jian invited me to their studio in Dehua, China to make the porcelain plum trees that are the heart of this exhibition. The table and chairs that hold the trees were made with my friend Michael, a genius woodworker and longtime friend. My friend Sandra invited me to print posters for the show in the print shop at Georgia College where she teaches. The terra cotta buckets were made by my friend Thomas, who invited me to decorate them. My friend Yoshi introduced me to his friend Matthew who helped me make an invitation. My friend Marjorie invited me to make work at Township 10 and there my friend Kyle, a potter, threw big, gourd shaped vases for me to decorate. Friendship is foundational to this exhibition and to my work.

Recently, I had a health scare and spent four days in the hospital, where my mortality came to lay right by my side. Fear and intense nostalgia invaded my thoughts. While enduring an MRI, the title for this exhibition burst into my mind: “I Have a Winter Friend.” The notion came as a relief and a comfort. Shining stars in a freezing night sky resonate with plum blossoms shivering in the cold— the eternal set next to the fleeting. Ying Jian suggested a poem by Song Dynasty poet Wang Anshi and Peter translated it for me. It seems that, better than my words, this poem works well as an artist’s statement.

A few plum twigs at the corner of the wall, 
Blossoming all alone,
Defying the cold, 
Even from afar they cannot be mistaken for snow, 
For a delicate fragrance comes wafting with the breeze.