Friday, June 24, 2011

The things you learn from a hobby

As previously mentioned, Mom and Jenny were here visiting earlier in the month. It's always fun to have them visit. We went for drives around Seattle, had an impromptu picnic at Golden Gardens, and otherwise goofed off.

Jenny was, as always, thrilled by the Pike Place Market gum wall.

Mom rockin' her Jackie O'Nasties at Golden Gardens! Yeah mommy!

(Images stolen courtesy of Jenny.)

I don't want this to turn into an all-geocaching, all-the-time type of blog because I don't want to try anyone's patience. With that said, I have come across some interesting sights and discovered some fascinating things lately while out seeking caches with my honey.

One of them is Haida House Studio.

Here's what it looks like now. (You can click on the picture for a larger image.)

And here's what it looked like back in the 1980s, when it was in use.

Haida House, located on the Sammamish River Trail, was for many years the art studio of Dudley C. Carter, a true Northwest original. Carter was born in 1891 in New Westminster, B.C., the son of pioneers from Barbados and Quebec. He was raised among the Kwakiutl and Tlingit tribes of the Northwest and his later art was strongly affected by their artistic styles. Starting life as a logger and forest engineer, Carter later became a master woodcarver. He carved wood with simple tools, including a wood axe, and often chose Native American legends as subjects for his sculptures. He moved to the state of Washington in 1928, residing there for the remainder of his long life.

Carter participated in the Art in Action project during the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, held on Treasure Island in San Francisco. While there he befriended muralist Diego Rivera, who described Carter as a thoroughly American artist whose art was at once truly native and truly his own. His sculptures are on display all up and down the West Coast of the United States, and a few of his pieces are in Germany and Japan as well. Carter, who subscribed to a regimen of regular diet and exercise and who ate apples nearly every day of his life, became a King County Artist in Residence at the age of 96; he died after a short illness in April 1992, a month shy of his 101st birthday.

Several of Carter's wooden sculptures are on display in the Puget Sound area, including the Redmond Regional Library, along the Sammamish River Trail and behind the Seattle Art Museum. This last sculpture, "Rivalry of the Winds," was originally on display inside the Garden Court of the museum, but was later relegated to the outside of the building and allowed to deteriorate. When Carter approached the museum to ask about repairing the piece himself, he was informed that the SAM's code of ethics forbade changing the character of the original piece by restoration (even by the original artist, apparently). At the time of his death, no repairs had been made to the sculpture. (It's since been relegated to the foyer of the Redmond Regional Library.)

The City of Redmond has a small treasure in Haida House that is likewise being allowed to rot. It has not been opened or used for several years, and the moss is growing thick upon the roof and up the ramp to the single door in the back of the structure. Haida House was constructed without nails or hardware, and Carter's original plan was to embellish the structure with the same totem-like carvings shown on the outer-facing wall of the studio. Its southeast-facing windows --the only windows in the structure, apparently glassless and open to the light and air -- have been boarded over with plywood panels, perhaps for good.

When you come upon this structure unexpectedly, you are astonished by its beauty. The totemic carvings on the roof and walls draw you in. You want to see more detail.

The enigmatic expressions on the faces of the figures lead you to ask the obvious questions: Who lived in this place? What it was used for? But there is no clue to be found on or around the structure or the grounds -- not even a brief plaque about Carter or a signpost indicating that this is Slough House Park. There is nothing at all. The city has provided neatly mowed lawns and a few picnic tables, but the studio of a truly notable American artist receives no other recognition.

Here's another thing: I drive past this little park almost every day in my car. The house with the totemic carvings is set back far enough from the road that it isn't easily visible. It's less than a mile from my home, as the crow flies -- and until yesterday, I didn't even know it was there.

Something is wrong with this picture.


TaraLarsenChang said...

How interesting! (and I see you've been thoroughly converted to the Dark Side (aka, geocaching). :-)

Soozcat said...

There is still good in me! I can feel it! :)

I have added this site as a waymark in hopes of getting other people interested in it as well. If I was completely unaware that this place existed, I'm sure I wasn't the only one.