Rick Bartow

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Rick Bartow, draws deeply on images from Native American mythology as well as archetypal and personal symbols, encapsulating them in a maelstrom of colors and pulsating lines.

Rick was born in 1946 near Newport, Oregon, where he still lives. His father, who was the source of his Wiyot heritage, died when he was five, a loss that fueled his adult search for roots within the Native American culture. The most significant factor in his personal, as well as artistic development, however, was his service in the Vietnam War. He returned fromVietnamwounded – not physically, but psychologically – and was soon enmeshed in divorce, depression, and alcoholism. In desperation, he joined Alcoholics Anonymous and turned to drawing as a therapeutic outlet. Talented as a child, he had studied art at Western Oregon State College, graduating in 1969 just before being drafted and sent to Vietnam. The heavily black graphite drawings of this difficult, post-war period were a personal catalyst. Their evident honesty and powerful drawing style soon attracted the attention of artist friends and professionals who provided encouragement and support, enabling him, as he says, “to go public.”

Although the pastel and graphite drawings are the core of Bartow’s art, his paintings, prints, and, most conspicuously, his masks and sculptures make up a prolific body of work. Recent sculptures, in particular, have an animistic spirit comparable to that of African carvings. Bartow’s piece, The Cedar Mill Pole, is currently installed in “The First Ladies Sculpture Garden” at the White House.

Bartow explains, “I work in an expressionistic manner using what I refer to as transformational images, which have evolved from work done in 1979, when I began drawing figures with masks either being removed or falling off the face. These images, I find, coincide with my having stopped drinking, obviously a cathartic period in my life.”