Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 2 | Summer 1983 (Seattle) /// Issue 4 of 24 /// Master# 4 of 24

THE this primal epoch, proto-lifeforms bearing strange resemblance to scissors, palettes and paint brushes begin the process of shaping our known universe from the muck and slurry that spawned them. Dr. Chew’s fascination with the ancient brings him full circle to our own era’s technological frontiers. His latest tool is computer graphics. Manipulating an electronic pencil, the artist draws on a 16 by 18 inch pad which interfaces with a minicomputer. “ I’m always excited to have new tools,” he declares. "The computer helped me rediscover a pure image as artwork. A painting would take me a month. Now I can think of an idea, put ByJames G. Farley Ifirst heard of C. T. Chewyears ago, when a videotape bearing his name showedup inafilmfestival. Tomy recollection, the sole imagerywas his pair of dextrous hands, wafting, dancingbeforemyeyes. I wasmesmerized. WhoisChew?I remember pondering. Sincethat time, Dr. Chew’swork, ina wide ranging array of mediums, has continued tocross my path. Whatever the format, it is invariably humorous, imaginative and idiosyncratic. Chew oftenattributes his ownwork toothers, and dons the cloak of archeologist, scientist and historian when he deems it appropriate. Artweek noted that “Chew posits himself the discoverer of ancient practices that seem suspiciouslycontemporary.’’ Late this spring, the CSQ finally caught up with the inscrewtable Dr. Chew. He graciously invited us into his North Seattle home, offered us delicious, home-made berry wine and introduced us to his housemate, daughter Zena, age 8, his chief assistant. The Chew residence is filled, floor to ceiling with pieces ranging in scale from stamps to wallsized murals, and working clutter. Bones, charred wood, art supplies and finished pieces are everywhere visible. C. T. Chew turns out to be a tall, tawny man in his late 30s whose modest sartorial style stands in marked contrast to his colorful surroundings, An engaging conversationalist, he shared his latest obsessions with us, engrossing us in his excitement as he proceeded. Consider some recent Chew material. Long a world-recognized stamp artist (he was visited by federal inspectors as a child for mailing a letter with his own 5c U.S. Worm Commemorative), a sheet of Chew’s creations combines photographs, drawings and print elements, all finally rendered via color xerox. Chew credits much of his work to Edwin Diggs, a failed designer of U.S. stamps who died in Patagonian exile after being hounded from our shores by the FBI for “ impersonation, attempted metaphor and interstate flight.” Pushing his fascination with things postal even further, Dr. Chew assembled, then torched, his “ Prehistoric Post Office,” (the blaze documented on videotape), and later “ discovered” the remains, which have since been catalogued and displayed in a natural history exhibit, complete with placards and diorama. The past, especially the imagined and recreated past, is central to his vision. Urban explorer Chew uncovered the charred remains of mythical city planner Ralph Doid’s blueprints for a never-constructed Seattle. Always ahead of his time, Doid’s career included plans for a floating City Hall (its chambers only reachable by navigating a strenuous water course), a western Statue of Liberty (the Oriental Obelisk) featuring an Asian woman holding aloft a rice bowl, and a fish trolley so fast its horrified passengers appear to be flying. The fact that Doid’s creations never saw the light of day renders them all the more exciting . . . they haven’t suffered the inevitable degradation of real objects over time. Ever the devoted archeologist, Dr. Chew joined colleagues on Vashon Island not long ago to exhume Video Pithecus Man, along with such assorted artifacts as input and output switches, baskets woven from old videotape, tattered copies of TV Guide and decaying commemorative stamps celebrating the “ find” which had mysteriously made their way into the soil. Chew claimed during the video dig that previous attempts, in 1934 and 1958, were unsuccessful because “ video hadn’t been invented yet.” In his never ending pursuit of knowledge, antiquarian Chew has unveiled such hideous troves as the : i । Medieval Massage Parlor, where hoary practices included Torture by Etiquette (its plates filled with zippers, bones, fossils and ripped up stamps), Torture by Squid and Torture by Small Wounds. In his latest work, C.T. Chew is exploring and reconstructing artifacts of his recent discovery, the 200 million-year-old Late Artozoic Era. In James G. Farley is a retired Postmaster General and a long-time stringer for the CSQ. “Thecomputer helped merediscoverapure imageasartwork. NowI canthinkofan idea, put itdown in10 minutes, andthen changeit overand overagain.’’ it down in 10 minutes, and then change it over and over again. There are 256 colors to choose from. I’ve pushed the machine to its limits. And I still want to figure out a way to do it better.” C. T. Chew works boldly, pushing limits of space, time and technology, always in his own humorous bent. His fascination with history and archeology springs from an awareness of our mortality. His recent show at Bellingham’s Whatcom Museum of History and Art was titled “ L’Extinc- tion des Arts.” We trust the wide dissemination of the Chew image on the following pages will help abolish his own fears in that regard. For as he stated recently, “ Some art will survive . . . motel art will survive — anything capable of reproducing itself in lots of 500 will always survive.” Clinton St. Quarterly 19