The Girl Who Married the Whale IV, from the myth
Bartow took interest in myths and stories from all cultures and walks of life. He specifically had an interest in biblical stories and would sometimes reference these when working. The Girl Who Married the Whale IV, from the myth could be referring to the story of Jonah who was swallowed by a whale. It could also be referring to another myth from a different culture that Bartow hadn’t mentioned was an inspiration. It is also possible that Bartow created an entire myth of his own in this piece.
Bartow used water, the sea, boats, and fishing as frequent themes in his work. Water was something he frequently found himself surrounded by, in proximity to, or was longing for. Being an Indigenous person, Bartow had deep ties to the lands of his people (Wiyot & Yurok) who were defined by which side of the river they were on. Fishing was a staple in Bartow’s life and he found a deep love of the sea even though he didn’t enjoy being in or on water. Bartow’s favorite books were “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville and “Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway. Some of his drypoints and pastels pull from these inspirations (see Ahab, The Girl Who Married the Whale IV, from the myth, and Salmon Sister III). He would often make the impression that open water is a wonderous and dangerous place.
This sentiment of water being a sacred barrier and sometimes tumultuous plays into Bartow’s use of the boat. The boat to Bartow frequently symbolized ceremony and tradition while simultaneously representing death. Bartow would use the boat in reference to the Greek myth of crossing the river Styx on Charon’s boat. The boat then becomes a vessel that keeps you in a temporary state of life, that at any moment, can tip over and a soul lost.