The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents “Rick Bartow: A Community Collection,” an exhibition of loaned works, in the Runyan Gallery July 8 through August 30. A renowned and beloved Newport-based artist, Bartow passed away on April 2.
“Rick Bartow: A Community Collection” has been developed through an open call to his community of family, friends, supporters and fellow artists, encouraging works on loan as a testament to his creative talent and broad community reach. The exhibition enjoys the support of the Bartow estate, as well as the Froelick Gallery in Portland, where Bartow has been represented since 1995.
At the July 8 reception, community members will discuss their loaned Bartow work at 5:45 p.m.
Bartow worked mainly in graphite and mixed-media drawings and prints, acrylic paintings, drypoint etchings, wood sculpture and monotypoes. Hawks, ravens and eagles populate his works.
A major retrospective of Rick Bartow’s work, “Things You Know but Cannot Explain,” opened in April 2015 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon and will continue to travel nationally through 2019.
“While the national Bartow retrospective makes its way around the country, the VAC is pleased to host a parallel Bartow exhibit, drawing out his creative work held by locals and the vast community that Bartow built and was inspired by,” says VAC Tom Webb, OCCA’s VAC director. “There will be visual artwork, storytelling and music.”
Portland gallerist William Jamison of Jamison/Thomas Gallery offered Bartow a solo exhibit in 1985, after which his arts career and prolific creative works drew attention from the broader art world.
“I drew myself straight,” Rick Bartow told Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Art Beat” in 2004, referring to how his creative work allowed him to overcome personal challenges such as PTSD, alcohol and the loss of his wife to cancer.
Bartow’s life as a visual artist reached various pinnacles of recognition, not the least of which is his monumental cedar sculpture, “We Were Always Here,” commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to sit on the museum’s grounds overlooking the National Mall (2012) in Washington D.C.
Bartow was born in Newport, as a member of the Wiyot tribe from northern California. His family further developed close ties with the Siletz Indian community of the central Oregon coast. Native American transformation myths remained at the heart of his work. And while Bartow would garner national and international attention as a leading contemporary Native American artist, Newport and the Oregon coast grounded his personal life.
As Rick Bartow’s reputation as a visual artist continued to grow, he maintained his Newport roots, also engaging local audiences as a skilled guitar player and songwriter for the band Bartow and the Backseat Drivers.
Bartow earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from Western Oregon State University in 1969 and then served in the Viet Nam war for 13 months as a teletype officer and musician in a military hospital. He returned to his art making several years after his service in the military, still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Work spanning his 35-year artistic career can be found in museums throughout the country, including the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Ore., the Portland Art Museum and the German Collection of Native American Art, among many others. His carving “The Cedar Mill Pole” was displayed on the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House in 1997 and is considered one of most highly regarded Native American public sculptures in the country. (For a complete Bartow exhibition history and artist bio, visit www.froelickgallery.com.)
“I’m gathered with incredible people who have broken hearts and strong spirits,” wrote Charles Froelick, Bartow’s longtime gallerist, shortly after the artist and friend passed away. “His poetry and genius will live on.”
Bartow was bestowed a “Community Legend” award by the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts in 2013.
“Rick was a child of the region and grew into a national treasure,” says Catherine Rickbone, OCCA’s executive director and chair of the Newport Public Art Committee. “We intend to honor his work and spirit for years to come.”