Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rick Bartow, Coyote Going

Rick Bartow, Coyote Going, 2002

Rick Bartow (b.1946) is a Native American artist of Wiyot and Yurok heritage.  Born in Newport, Oregon, he displayed a love of art from an early age.  He attended Western Oregon University, graduating in 1969 with a degree in art education.  Bartow was then drafted and served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971, where he received a bronze star.  His Native American heritage and the trauma of his tour in Vietnam inform his art and intertwine throughout his work, which hang in museums all over the world.  Perhaps his most celebrated piece is Cedar Mill Pole (1997), which has been displayed at the White House, among other places, and is one of the most highly regarded pieces of Native American public art in the country.  Bartow's paintings are complex expressions of pain and heritage.  Often using chaotic splashes of paint to create his images, they often depict animals, especially birds and dogs or coyotes.  Many of his works explore the relationship between animals and humans by pushing them together into one body or picture space.  This is the case in Coyote Going, where it becomes difficult to see where the coyote ends and the man begins.  Their bodies fuse to become one figure.  Bartow often leaves part of the painting white, which causes us to reflect on the nature of space, and the color looks like something out of a dream, seeping across the piece.  In this case, the blue color serves as a background, while the yellows, pinks, and greens form the bodies.  It is worth noting that the faces of the coyote and the man are both painted an opaque black, obfuscating their identities and individuality.

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