Through May: Native American Rick Bartow art retrospective

By Debby Stinson, Museum of Art

PULLMAN, Wash. – More than 120 paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints will be displayed in “Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain,” a retrospective representing 40 years of work by the prominent, contemporary Native American artist at the Washington State University Museum of Art Jan. 24-March 11.

Man Acting Like Dog, 2009

An opening reception and illustrated slide lecture by Rebecca J. Dobkins will be 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, in the museum gallery. The exhibition catalog will be available for sale. Dobkins is a professor of anthropology, curator of Native American art at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University, organizer of international exhibitions of American Indian art and recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces grant.

The date has yet to be scheduled for an exhibit walk-through with Michael Holloman, WSU associate professor of art history and American Indian studies.

Sculptures at Smithsonian in D.C.

Personal experiences, literature and art from around the globe informed works by Bartow who died in 2016 from congestive heart failure. He explored self-portraiture and animal imagery, often blurring the lines between the two; many describe his work as transformational and visual storytelling.

From Nothing Coyote Creates Himself, 2004

He was commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in 2012 to create “We Were Always Here,” a monumental pair of sculptures installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Bartow was born in Newport, Ore., in 1946, graduated from Western Oregon University with a degree in secondary arts education and served in the Vietnam War. He was a member of the Wiyot tribe of northern California and had close ties with the Siletz community in Oregon.

His work is permanently held in more than 60 public institutions in the U.S., including the Yale University Art Gallery, Brooklyn Museum and Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts. He had 35 solo museum exhibitions and his art has been referenced in more than 250 books, catalogs and articles.

Catalog accompanies exhibit

Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated catalog with essays by Jill Hartz and Danielle Knapp, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, and Lawrence Fong, formerly of the JSMA. The catalog is made possible with support from the Ford Family Foundation, Arlene Schnitzer and Philip and Sandra Piele.

The exhibition is organized by the JSMA and curated by Hartz and Knapp. Funding is provided by the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Art Endowment, John Mathews Friel Memorial Arts Lectureship and the members of the Museum of Art with special recognition to Bartow, the Froelick Gallery in Portland, Ore., and the estate of Rick Bartow. Learn more at

Find the museum location and hours at For more information, contact 509-335-1910.


News media contacts:
Debby Stinson, Museum of Art/WSU, 509-335-6282,
Anna-Maria Shannon, Museum of Art/WSU, 509-335-6140,