Seattle artist Doug Jeck works in a variety of media — ceramics, painting, performance art, mixed media — but he is probably best known for his figurative work, what he refers to as “human objects.” The figures are painstakingly hand built from the ground up, meticulously crafted and finished with paints and other materials. They draw from the tradition of heroic sculpture but these individuals are not heroic in the usual sense. Instead they represent the anti-hero, the everyman, who has been buffeted by life, damaged and yet somehow still survives. The inner damage is reflected in the damage done to the figure itself by the artist: body parts are missing or hacked off and put back in different places, and the carriage of the body itself reflects defeat and insecurity. In addition to his studio work, Jeck is on the faculty of the University of Washington where he is an Associate Professor in the Ceramic Arts Department.
“I’ve looked hard at the history of the human object. I wonder the same thing about it as I do about myself: Is what has been more blessed than what will be? This question is at the core of everything I make and, perhaps, the reason why clay is most appropriate. “Human Object.” I prefer this term to define my work instead of “figurative sculpture.” This is not merely a semantic distinction. “Figurative” implies the removal of that which is directly human into a symbolic representation. “Human Object” not only describes the uncanny presence of the thing I make, but also refers to the focus of its content. My work takes a long time to make. I build a hollow human body by adding thin strips of clay on top of each other an inch at a time. I start on the ground, with the feet, and work up, slowly defining the body, hour by hour, day after day. Each time I work on this body, which will eventually have a face, pupils, and an implied persona, I have a different, unique combination of encounters with the human object influencing me – a previous student critique, a BBC radio broadcast, the Brahms 3rd Piano Concerto, the recollection of a stranger’s gait, my latest, seemingly brilliant epiphany on Art, my sons‟ latest perplexing questions, etc. Throughout this process and in the finished work, I am as certain that the implied persona that has emerged through months of this attention has been defined by it, as I am that it will eventually become a fragmented piece of insignificant, dusty junk. Or maybe not.”