A.D. Gallery

Froelick Gallery

Rick Bartow

Transformations, 1989

I work in an expressionistic manner using what I refer to as transformational images, which have evolved from work done in 1979, when I began drawing figures with masks either being removed or falling off the face. These images, I find, coincide with my having stopped drinking, obviously a cathartic period in my life. 

It was also at this period that I began dealing with personal problems and my Viet Nam experience. These experiences will, in some ways, probably always have an effect on how I view things. Masks of my own were falling away, which enabled me to begin to see the masks of others and realize for the first time that I was not the only one who had problems; that I no longer had to be afraid. At a time when my peers already had families, I was just learning to look at myself in the mirror and see myself. I was speaking my own name without discomfort. I was beginning to look at others and really see them. The work, though admittedly strange, told many stories that I myself was blind to for quite a few years.

After years of sobriety, and some major changes in how I live and how I perceive the world around me, the work has changed. 

The change has been a slow evolution. Color took three years to begin to work. The rich inky blackness of the graphite began to diminish in proportion to the first subtle colors I applied, until 1983, when at last the light out-shown the darkness and the graphite line delineated only areas of color.

When I returned from Viet Nam, like so many others, I was a bit twisted. I was a house filled with irrational fears, beliefs, and symbols. Wind-blown paper would send me running; crows became many things; I never remembered dreams and detested the wind; I wore bells on my wrists so I could hear my parts when they moved; I slept in my clothes so I'd be ready to go nowhere at all. And I once recall answering when asked my name and where I was from, Nobody. Nowhere. I must have been a wonderful companion. 

During this time I found a huge pad of newsprint and began to draw, trying to exorcise the demons that had made me strange to myself. My work has never stopped being therapy. With the help of family, friends, and my work, I have drawn myself straight, though some might argue to the contrary after looking at some of my more outside work.

Transitions are a part of my life that I now actively seek, seeing transition as growth. I welcome change now; before, I was afraid of it.

The masks continued to fall away, the thrust of the work kept evolving until, one evening in my studio, I realized that I could draw motion—a single figure in action. This coincided with some Native American myths that I was reading, and my old nemesis, the crow, took on a new twist. We became one while remaining two. Approximately four years ago, I began actively to carve masks from cedar. 

Having no teacher available around me, I began spending every cent I could on books about Native American carving techniques and artifacts, as I hold the Northern tribes to be world class carvers, every bit Rodin's equal in sculpture. Through that research to learn carving, I was bombarded with mythic images. Then the drawings began to transform rapidly into split figures, two faces creating one, man and animal sharing bodies, symbols with numerous applications.

My beasts from within that had made me so uncomfortable with myself previously had become visible. Now when the questionnaires arrive concerning delayed stress syndrome, I throw them away, feeling that when I needed them they weren't there, and I sure as hell don't need them now! 

When working, I usually begin with a subject in mind and will sometimes use images from newspapers or periodicals for models. I work methodically and intuitively. I first lay out the form using boxed and rectangles. Then I apply a light area of pigment, pastel, or graphite, and then begin to erase and reapply line and color.

From this point, the work becomes much like watercolor painting, in that a certain amount of control is given over to the erasing. Once the major portion of the composition is completed, I begin to work back in with pencil to further define forms, add texture, and heighten the visual tension. 

I enjoy using bright colors and earth tones mainly because color was so hard for me to come by. Also, I live in an area noted for its annual rain and fog. I find color healing. An old friend of mine buys outrageously colorful (often bad) prints and bargain art during the summer, against the dull grays of the winter to come. It makes her feel better.

I use Koh-I-Noor graphite, a number of brands of pastels, from expensive to inexpensive and all different varieties of drawing pencils. 

Due to the process I employ in creating my work, I require a heavy stock paper. I have found Stonehenge rag printing stock right for the job.

I try to use the best possible materials and have found that the added expense of acid-free, neutral pH paper and framing materials is money well spent in producing the best work that the artist can provide a market.