In August 2013, artist Rick Bartow experienced a mild stroke which affected his expressive speech. With the help of a speech therapist, he has reclaimed much of his verbal skill, and he was able to return to artmaking within days. “It’s okay if I don’t speak words,” he says in hindsight, “I just need to draw and paint.” His current exhibition Bird Wings at the Froelick Gallery in Portland, OR (his 12th solo show there!) features work he produced both before and after the stroke. Many of these small acrylic and gouache paintings alongside large pastel drawings address Bartow’s longstanding preoccupation with nature, animals, and powerful Native American leaders (Bartow is a member of the Wiyot tribe of Northern California), while others allude to his healing journey and its attendant frustrations and triumphs.
Even when unable to access spoken forms of expression, Bartow remained what he has always been–a keen observer. “Eyes are dangerous,” he says. “When you can’t talk you do a lot of looking.”