In August of 2023, the Redmond Historical Society partnered with Venues for Artists in the Local Area (VALA Eastside) to present "Dudley Carter on Paper," offering a unique insight into the lesser-known works of Redmond's legendary carver, Dudley Carter. World-renowned for his impressive wood carvings and totems, Dudley Carter also produced an array of rarely seen two-dimensional works. The exhibition included sketches, figure studies, gestural abstracts, and pastel landscapes―all from the Society's Collections.
Relive this exhibit by reading the Opening Night Review, or viewing the Panel Discussion below.
To learn more about these pieces or Dudley Carter's history in Redmond, contact our office at manager@RedmondHistoricalSociety.org.
Dudley Carter on Paper: A Glimpse into a Genius
A 2D portfolio of the man who sculpted the Pacific Northwest
Opening Night Review and Photos by Krishna Nandanoor
It was an evening to remember at VALA.
When I walked in, the first thing that caught my eye were the sketches! By Dudley Carter, the sculptor! We know him from his thought-provoking sculptures on display at the Redmond library, at Dudley Carter Park, at SAM, and at BAM! An artist whose art revealed the side of the Pacific Northwest we are a part of! Loving tradition, embracing the contemporary and enhancing the future: all on display in the present! At such scale! To see the sketches was a different perspective altogether into the psyche of the sculptor.
From figure drawings to landscapes, from pastels to pen and ink, the sketches were vastly different from the substrate of Carter’s work but then, it was no surprise that he would formulate his ideas and work on paper. And were they interesting!
His drawings of a man rowing down the river in a kayak and also those of the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest showed not only an amazing level of intricate detail, but also his love for his roots of the Pacific Northwest and how his early years influenced his perspectives of the evergreen state and its love of nature.
Another sketch was that of a waterfall. Completely black and white and yet, it conjured such colorful images of our state’s love for our outdoors.
And, true to his artistic penchant, the themes varied as did his love for all things Northwest and into the world beyond: An abstract one with strong ties to his roots realistic.
One sculpture that manifested that was an
appropriately named Creation. It’s a concentric circled sculpture within a totem symbolizing creation. It embodies geometry! Art! Surrealism within a real material as grounded as wood but
exhibiting the enigma of creation that is right in front us. It evinced as many thoughts as the stars in the skies! And what was even more interesting is that the exhibit made it a point to actually put forth the thoughts of the legend himself. It was fascinating to see what the artist actually thought, in his own words about art, his art, and how the world perceives the world and the art in it.
“In abstractions there is no limit as to what you can do. In more realistic or representational sculpture you are to some degree limited to what you can do―you can’t make great departures from realism.”
This exhibit shows us a new way of looking at Dudley Carter’s work. For me, it will not only paint the Northwest in a massive woody scale, but also cerebrally sculpt an abstract world that existed in the virtuoso’s mind!
Read More: The Log Is Lost!
Dudley Carter’s work was being recognized all over the world. And the Bay Area was no exception. In the 1940s, the Golden Gate International Exposition’s “Art in Action” event in San Francisco hosted two greats of the art world: Diego Rivera and Dudley Carter who shared the artistic space with each other for the first time.
Rivera had a high regard for Dudley’s artistic intuition and his talent to explore that into a very visible and scaled form. In his Pan American Unity mural, which showcased several important historical figures that included his wife Frida Kahlo, several American Presidents, Chaplin, and many more, Carter was featured thrice in varied situations. However, it was the story of a 60-ton log that was special! Apparently, the log of wood which Carter was supposed to work on to create one of his massive sculptures was lost. How one would one lose a log almost 50 feet long and weighed the same as a redwood tree that size was beyond my ken, but there it was!
Dudley Carter still finished The Ram and The Goddess of the Forest during this exhibition, which were later restored by a 90-year-old Carter, and are currently in display at the City College of San Francisco Campus.
Krishna Nandanoor is a mom, engineer, history buff, amateur writer, and a huge Jane Austen fan! She loves Redmond, its history, culture, and people. She is now happily a part of the RHS newsletter team, and is enjoying exploring various facets of Redmond, and bringing them into the literary limelight!
Opening Night Photos:
Dudley Carter Panel:
On August 20th, VALA hosted a panel discussion, “Exploring the Portfolio of Redmond’s Legendary Carver, Dudley Carter,” moderated by Halee Turner, RHS Administration and Collections Manager. Panelists included author (and Dudley’s secretary and confidant) ‘Lyn Fluery Lambert, artist Jon Kraft, a carver himself who restored some of Dudley’s works; and Laura Lee Bennett, RHS Vice President and local community organizer. Click below to read their full bios.
Late in Dudley Carter's life, 'Lyn acted as his “executive secretary” and had an opportunity to work closely with the artist. Following his passing, she has remained a valuable source of information on his life and extensive catalog of work. In 2020, she published a book in collaboration with Mary Sikkema, entitled "Dudley Carter: Tales of the Legendary Wood Sculptor". This book explores Dudley's life through the eyes of his friends, family, and other artists -- and also offers a detailed look at all his known pieces.
Laura Lee Bennett
Laura Lee Bennett is passionate about engaging the community in her role as Executive Vice President of the Redmond Historical Society, and as Events Coordinator at VALA. As a writer and poet herself, she is immersed in Redmond's creative community and has a particular interest in how history can inform or be placed in conversation with art. This background gives her a unique perspective on the intersection of these two topics, and this unique opportunity to explore Dudley Carter's work.
Jon Kraft had an opportunity to connect with Dudley Carter's work while apprenticing with Ralph Bennet (Goo la' Slacoon),a fifth-generation Haida carver. During his time in Redmond, Ralph Bennet lived and taught in the Slough House Park. The studio there, was the fourth Haida style house Dudley Carter had built, though he passed before it was completed. During his apprenticeship, Jon Kraft became very familiar with Dudley’s work, and has also done restoration work on a number of his pieces
Halee Turner is the Manager of Administration and Archives at the Redmond Historical Society. She enjoys exploring Redmond's history through the Society's collections and through the rememberings of many members of our community. She's had an opportunity to learn about Dudley Carter through his photos, artifacts and archives; graciously shared with the Redmond Historical Society by his friends, family, and patrons.