NEWPORT — On Sunday, Oct. 11, at noon, as part of the Newport Visual Arts Center’s (VAC) Oregon Coast Art Talks, a livestreaming panel discussion titled “Rick Bartow: In Context” will focus on the work of the late Newport artist. A Bartow print is included in the VAC’s Oregon Coast Online Art Show.
Tom Webb, VAC director, described the Bartow print as one of the special pieces in the show. “Having him in the show raised the overall credibility of the show and all the artists in it,” Webb said.
Karen Murphy, of Newport, is one of three trustees of Bartow’s estate. She said the trustees “endeavor to increase Bartow’s reputation and presence in the panoply of North American artists, and to take care of his beneficiaries — his children.” She, along with Bill Avery and Theresa Wisner, serve on the trust that is responsible for Bartow’s remaining artwork.
On its website, the Froelick Gallery in Portland, which has represented Bartow since 1995 and continues to represent his estate, describes the artist as “a Vietnam veteran, a life-long musician and songwriter, a widower, an enrolled member of the Mad River Band of Wiyot Indians, and … one of the most important leaders in contemporary Native American art.”
His art is held in more than 100 public collections and was the subject of a retrospective, “Things You Know But Cannot Explain,” organized by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in collaboration with the Froelick Gallery. The exhibit toured 11 museums from 2015 to 2020.
Gallery owner Charles Froelick will join Murphy on Zoom on Sunday’s livestream talk on Bartow’s life. Listeners can go to YouTube Live during the streaming to chat in real time. All talks are available for rebroadcast as well.
Webb said Sunday’s talk will focus on the Bartow print “Segyp, Kos Ket Saw Temp?” — Yurok for “Coyote, Where Are You Going?” — that is included in the VAC’s Oregon Coast Online Art Show. The Bartow estate trustees have made 10 copies of the print available for sale. Proceeds benefit both the Bartow estate and Oregon Coast Council for the Arts.
Webb noted Bartow’s place in Native American and contemporary art, and the estate’s efforts to preserve his legacy. But Rick Bartow was more than an artist.
“One hundred percent, he was a man of the community,” Murphy said. “He was truly unassuming — no artifice, no ‘look at me, see how I’ve made good.’”
He grew up and continued to live and work on land in South Beach secured by his grandfather, who had walked to Oregon from California.
Murphy said Bartow, who died in 2016, was “all about being in the community — being the guy who played at the Whale’s Tale, who was part of the house band at Café Mundo,” she said. “That’s how he wanted to be known.”
When Bartow was commissioned to create two “welcoming poles” for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., Murphy said he opened the doors of his studio and welcomed anyone to carve on the poles. “It was very important that the poles represented all of the spirit of the people of this community,” she said.
Murphy said Webb contacted her about including a Bartow piece in the online art show. “Rick was always supportive of the art and music community here, and would have been supportive of this new way to help artists on the coast in this extremely unusual time,” she said.
The print features coyote, the trickster, whose job is to teach us a lesson, Murphy said, adding, “It’s so appropriate — the question of where are we going is posed to us through this image. The background is black, and we’re in the dark night now.”
Murphy said she senses that with the tearing of the fabric of society, people are returning to a sense of community, citing the generosity of people during the recent wildfires.
“When push comes to shove, we all stand up and take care of each other,” she said. “We’re going to make community bonds tighter. We think about Rick and how he lived his life and what a regular guy he was, but he was also special. After he came back from Vietnam, he could never go back to the life he knew when he was in high school. We’re now at a similar crossroads. We all are trying to get to where we want to be, but we’re not going to get there without each other.
“I think Rick’s work has more relevance every day because of our disconnection, especially after COVID,” she added. “His paintings allow us to experience the connection he offers to our interior world and to the mythological world.”
Murphy concluded, “He was completely approachable. He was dedicated to the children of this community. Having his art in the show is a way we can support our artists, and the VAC as well, so when we can all get together again, we’ll have a place to go.”
To link to the Bartow panel discussion, go to coastarts.org/events/oregon-coast-art-talks and scroll down to the Bartow event.
For more information about Coast Art Talks, visit coastarts.org or email [email protected]