Posted by Chris Howes on January 19, 2018
Mythology, a striking color palette and a dark, dreamlike tone — all an expression of an artist’s personal history — come together when Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain opens at Aurora University’s Schingoethe Center on Tuesday, January 23, from 5-6:30 p.m.. The exhibition, which runs through April 13, features some 120 paintings, sculptures and drawings in a retrospective of the 40-year career of a culturally important Native American artist.
Rick Bartow, a member of the Wiyot tribe, was born on the Oregon coast in 1946 and studied art at Western Oregon University before joining the military and serving in the Vietnam War. In large part, his subsequent body of work deals with his postwar PTSD and alcoholism. Some of it brings in images pulled from his Native American heritage, such as crows, bears and coyotes, hinting at a relationship between the animal world, the human world and the spirit world. He died in 2016.
If Bartow’s art is intriguing, it may be because it’s not at all straightforward. “It’s highly narrative work, but it’s not always easy to understand what the story is saying,” said Meg Bero, executive director of the Center. “Bartow didn’t always know the story. He worked intuitively.”
According to Bero, the Center’s main role is to be an inspirational resource on the subject of art for AU students. “I want them to feel comfortable interacting with art,” she said. “I hope the museum becomes part of their cultural education.” It’s also a resource for the community at large. For students and the public, this exhibition showcases an artist whose work is truly inspirational because it resists categorization. “Boxing Bartow in is not something we can do,” said Bero.
“Students and the local community will be fortunate to see the life work of this great artist in such an intimate setting,” she continued. “We are the only venue this far east showing this exhibition. In fact, we are the only venue east of the Mississippi River.”
The exhibit is part of the Aurora University Celebrating Arts and Ideas 2017-2018 series. Following the opening reception will be a lecture, “The Work is the Blessing: Why We Shouldn’t Explain Rick Bartow,” by curator Danielle Knapp of the University of Oregon.