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Thursday, April 9, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dudley Carter, 100, An Artist With Wood Who Lived Simple Life

Dudley Carter was busy planning a family picnic for his May 6 birthday when he died Tuesday night. He would have been 101.

Mr. Carter, who created monumental wood sculptures with an ax, was artist-in-residence for King County Parks. Named to the post in 1987 when he was 96, he taught classes and carved every day until his final short illness.

"It's hard to sum Dudley up," said his secretary, Lyn Lambert. "He was an incredible person. He was probably the best educated `unschooled' man I knew in my life.

"He lived a simple life of fasting and diet and exercise. He pretty well lived on apples - mostly Red Delicious. He was eating apples as late as Monday."

Lambert said Mr. Carter left many unfinished pieces in his studio and was full of plans for future projects. One project left unfinished is a Haida-style studio he was building in Redmond, on King County "Slough House" property. Constructed without nails or hardware, the studio was to have provided work space for Mr. Carter to expand his apprentice program.

One of those apprentices, Pam Slyter of Redmond, described his style of teaching:

"He discouraged his apprentices from looking at books," she said. "He didn't encourage people to follow his style or copy other Northwest native styles. I did some sketches once and he said, `No, these are copies. It has to be your own work.' "

Mr. Carter is survived by a daughter, Mavis Vaughn of Gibsons, B.C., and three grandchildren.

He will be buried near Stave Falls, B.C. in the area where his family were pioneers. His father, originally from Barbados, and his mother, from Quebec, came west in 1891, shortly before Dudley was born. He grew up among Haida and Kwakiutl Indians, and in later life chose Indian legends as subjects for his sculptures.

Mr. Carter worked initially as a logger and forest engineer, and considered himself a "wilderness man." He moved to Washington state in 1928.

His first big carving, "The Rivalry of Winds," was purchased in 1932 by Dr. Richard Fuller, founder of the Seattle Art Museum. The nine-foot high cedar piece depicts a Duwamish Indian legend, in which the South (Chinook) Wind presents a basket of salal berries to the daughter of the Mountain Beaver, winning her away from his rival, the North Wind.

Originally installed indoors, in SAM's central Garden Court, the sculpture later was moved behind the museum where it sits in a deteriorating condition, encroached upon by holly bushes. Its condition was a matter of concern to Mr. Carter, who urged museum officials in July 1990 to allow repair and restoration of the piece, and relocate it to an open area rather than under trees where falling leaves hasten its decay.

Mr. Carter proposed that he be permitted to reinforce the piece with copper and abalone shell ornament, as is traditional in some Northwest Coast Indian art.

Museum officials starchily informed Mr. Carter that "museums subscribe to a code of ethics for conservation that prohibits changing the original character of the work of art by restoration." Even, apparently, by the artist himself. No repairs have been made.

Mr. Carter was commissioned, along with Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, to create a piece for the 1939 World's Fair in San Francisco. Mr. Carter's piece was moved to Golden Gate Park. A totem pole at Northgate Shopping Mall also is by Mr. Carter.

Lambert said a memorial celebration probably will be held for Mr. Carter on his birthday but no time and place have yet been set.

-- Times East bureau reporter Katherine Long contributed to this article.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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