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Rick Bartow: My Eye

Hallie Ford Museum, Salem, OR
Jan 19-Mar 16

Rick Bartow, Magpie (1996), pastel & graphite on paper [Halle Ford Museum, Salem, Jan 19-Mar 16] Courtesy Froelick Gallery
This retrospective exhibition marks the beginning of a two-ear tour for Rick Bartow. Bartow’s work is direct and visionary, “I draw lines and see animals”. Gerald McMaster, Ph.D. of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian comments, “In Bartow’s work are representations of life, the patterns we all go through... his are intensely personal stories... always surprising with his broad range of mediums...”

Bartow creates drama with the juxtapositions of both color and image. He pulls us into his large drawings, created with pastels, charcoal and graphite, with an expansive use of black and white and keeps us there with his ample use of colors. His subjects are in a state of symbolic metamorphosis, never knowing if it’s the animal transforming into a human or if it’s the other way around. The exhibition also features his mixed media sculptures. In ‘Untitled. 1993’ we see a carving of a mask depicting a serene face atop a bird.

Other pieces are far more raw and provoking, as in “Quee Queg. 1996” where the subjects stained face is marred with numerous nails plunged into it. On display, from the collection of The Heard Museum in Phoenix is his striking headdress, “Salmon Mask. 1987” It has an salmon's bulbous nose, a wide open jaw with well spaced sharp teeth and the soft wavy white hair of an elder. The few examples of his drypoints presented on handmade Japanese paper exude an Asian influence in the simplicity of their compositions, which he creates with quick gestural markings.

His work is inspired by his keen ability to observe nature, relationships, his Vietnam service, travels, multi-cultural mythology and ceremonial traditions and influences from Bartow’s Native American heritage, Yurok. Bartow resides and works on the Oregon Coast where 5 generations of his family have lived for seven decades.

This exhibition is accompanied by a book on Bartow’s life and work, published by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University in association with the University of Washington Press.

© Davis green

 Sat, Mar 30, 2002