Tapestry print of crows flying in a delta

New to the Collection: Carl Chew

September 10, 2022 - January 8, 2023

Lightcatcher Building

In conjunction with Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art, five new additions to the Whatcom Museum Collection by Seattle artist Carl Chew will be on display in the Lightcatcher building first floor hallway. Carl Chew has long studied the world through an absurdist lens. Known primarily for his “mail art” and collage, in 2019 the artist decided to apply his wild imagination to our regional landscape. The resulting imagery feels immediately familiar, and upon further inspection, also highly produced. The symmetry and cathedral-like compositions begin to become clearer. These works beg the question, how do we as humans respond to nature, understand nature, and organize it for our own spiritual and aesthetic consumption?

Digital art print of a scene of a grassy river delta with a tree stump and three crows

Carl Chew; Skagit Delta: Wetlands, 2019; Archival inkjet on paper, Gift of the Artist; Whatcom Museum Collection.

In Chew’s artist statement he says: Every April for 37 years my wife and I have taken a birdwatching walk along Wiley Slough, where the South Fork of the Skagit River enters Puget Sound. The glimmering wetlands there, rich with wildlife diversity, are for me a mystical place. In 2019 I wondered if an artist who had devoted most of his career to imaginative curiosity and humor could create a body of work worthy of the natural setting found in the Skagit Delta. Through the use of symmetry and layering of up to 20 mixed media images in each work, I felt I was able to penetrate into a realm where crows and landscape could share their secrets. And as I began to look at and share my new creations with others, I realized that those “secrets” had different and profound meanings for each viewer. The grand scale of the delta seemed to also demand artwork on a grand scale, so I decided to make some large tapestries. I located a weaver in North Carolina with a Jacquard loom controlled by a computer which could take my digital files directly and we began working together. The current result of this endeavor is four different tapestries and eleven prints.