Oregon-based visual artist Rick Bartow already had an accomplished career by the time he had a health scare late in life. The artist painted bold figures and canvases full of archetypal characters. He spent most his life on the Oregon coast, and grew up with his white mom in the small town of Newport. His father — a member of the Wiyot Indian tribe in California — died when he was 5.
But according to his longtime gallery dealer Charles Froelick, Bartow’s mother made sure to honor his multicultural identity.
"So they would go to church on Sunday mornings and they would go to pow-wow in the afternoon,” Froelick says.
The artist’s heritage deeply influenced his work, and is on display at a lookback of his career at the Boise Art Museum. In a piece entitled “CS Indian,” Bartow paints a face in bright yellow, red and blue — flashing small white teeth and a floating third eye on the figure’s forehead.
The gallery manager says this large piece came about after the artist had a stroke in 2013 — which altered his speaking and writing abilities for the rest of his life. But it also lead to the most uninhibited period of his career.
“His energy became explosive and experimental; he started learning things anew. He was not afraid to start drawing things in a way that was totally new. He was an ever-changing person and a stroke would not stop him.”
Rick Bartow died in 2016, leaving behind an evocative and varied body of work. His exhibit, entitled “Things You Know But Cannot Explain,” will be on display at the Boise Art Museum through mid-December.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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