We Were Always Here by Rick Bartow

Part One


The art by Rick Bartow was unveiled in 2012 at the national Museum of the American Indian. We were always Here is a sculpture made up of two red cedar poles that are carved by the artist from old cedar poles. The art is perfectly captured in the name given as it articulates the persecution that the Native Americans suffered at their own home. The age of the cedar tree, thought to be 500 years old is symbolic for the long duration in which the Indians have been living in America. At the top of the two cedar trees are carvings from planks thought to be well over 1000 years thus emphasizing the duration further. In the 17th Century, immigrants, largely Europeans, invaded America and started driving the Indians from their land. The initial displacement was forceful and involved violence because the Europeans wanted the fertile land on which the Indians had lived for many years. Sensing rejection, the government, largely consisting of Europeans passed laws to drive away the Indians thereby leaving the land for the whites to plough. These sufferings are well captured in the art by Rick Bartow.



The choice of the medium of a sculpture towing above the human height is well in order and represents the resilience of the Native Americans. It is meant to proclaim that the people are still there even after the persecutions. The location of the art is also perfectly chosen because the museum details the history of the Native Americans. The intentions of the artist are therefore well articulated by the sculpture as everyone can see it. In addition, the towing figures in the sculptures are symbolic to mean that people are looking up to the figure for both remembrance and hope.



The influences that led the artist to carve out the sculptures can be traced to his Native American heritage and the desire to associate with his traditions. The artist is of Native American decency and has read a lot of history on the persecution that his ancestors went through under the hands of the white Americans. In addition, the artist’s educational background is also a source of influence that is evident in the art. Rick Bartow graduated with a degree in secondary arts education from Western Oregon University in 1969 (Dobkins, 20012). In addition, the many years that he served in the Vietnam War could be an influence from the persecution that he saw. It could be that his work is to express what many people did not witness.



The art by Rick Bartow is effective in portraying the message that it was intended to. The towing nature of the artwork is a national heritage that will be remembered for many years to come. Children from future generations will have a lot of history to learn from the art. In addition, the art maintains the history of the Native Americans in the form of a sculpture

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