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Newport Visual Arts Center celebrates work of emerging Indigenous creators Chantele Rilatos, Isabella Saavedra, Leonard D. Harmon, Leland Butler, and Booker Bartow

The four-gallery show opens June 1 and includes photography, videography, installation, painting, and basketry.

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Chantele Rilatos, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, says "Being a basket weaver connects me to my ancestors and homelands." She is one of five Indigenous artists in a show that opens June 1 at the Newport Visual Arts Center and Performing Arts Center.
“Being a basket weaver connects me to my ancestors and homelands,” says Chantele Rilatos, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians. Rilatos is one of five Indigenous artists featured in a show that opens June 1 in Newport’s Visual Arts and Performing Arts centers.

Learning the art of basketry has been a lifelong endeavor for 27-year-old Chantele Rilatos, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians. But it’s much more than an art form for Rilatos.

“We say our baskets have a spirit,” Rilatos said. “We use them in every part of our ceremony and ways of life. The Siletz basketry is survival for our people, from ceremonial to utilitarian … carrying our babies and our children.”

Rilatos is one of five artists featured in the upcoming exhibit, Where Waters Meet, celebrating the next generation of Indigenous creators. The exhibit opens Saturday and will be on display through July 28 at the Newport Visual Arts Center and in the Olive Street Gallery of the Newport Performing Arts Center.

Rilatos’ baskets, featured in Woven from the Land in the COVAS Showcase, also represent both the utilitarian and ceremonial and are made from a variety of plant materials native to her coastal homeland. Known for their expertise in basketry, Siletz tribal members often use hazel sticks, spruce, different types of ferns, and bear grass.

“Being a basket weaver connects me to my ancestors and homelands,” Rilatos said. “It is a sacred practice I look forward to having a lifelong relationship with.”

In the Olive Street Gallery, Isabella Saavedra’s paintings in the exhibit Memories at Night represent a period when she focused on working with salvaged materials.

“A lot of pieces of the show are made of canvasses that have been stitched together,” said Saavedra, a member of the Pit River Tribe. “There is silk glued to them, distressed areas. I really focus on the interaction between me and the material itself. I have an affinity for fabric and materials.”

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The pieces also were inspired by the Night Gallery TV show that aired from 1969-73, with Rod Serling introducing “a private showing” of three paintings and the dark tale behind them.

“With Memories at Night, I am referring to my real world being linked to my dream world and the spirit world,” Saavedra said. “With people looking at these images, they would then be invited into all of those realms, not so much in an esoteric way, but as an assertion of my real-life experiences, including these multiple realities.”

In the Visual Arts Center’s Runyan Gallery, Leonard D. Harmon, curator of the show, pairs with Leland Butler to present Walking on Eggshells, featuring photography, film, sculpture, and installation components. Harmon, a citizen of the Nanticoke Tribe of Millsboro, Del., and the Lenape Tribe of New Jersey, draws inspiration from his ancestors and tribe, but is primarily self-taught. His inaugural solo exhibition took place in the center’s Upstairs Gallery in April and May of 2023.

Butler, of the Grand Ronde/Siletz and Yurok tribes, was drawn to photography by his curiosity about self, land, and people. “His sophisticated and often mysterious compositions explore the duality of light and shadow,” according to notes about the show.

Booker Bartow, member of the Wiyot Tribe, debuts what organizers call a “bold and eclectic” exhibit, South Beach Salamander, in the Upstairs Gallery. The son of the late Rick Bartow, a major contemporary Native American artist, Booker Bartow’s “early years were filled with music, art, and long days spent searching for frogs and salamanders in the wetlands near his home,” according to a press release. Through his love of skateboarding and sharing that passion through videography, he recently rediscovered his love for visual art. “His work is a reflection of the joy he finds in mixing mediums, experimenting, and approaching the process with a sense of innocence that comes from working with no rules or self-judgment.”

An opening reception for all four exhibits will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 1, in both the Newport Performing Arts Center and the Newport Visual Arts Center. Artist talks begin at 1 p.m.; admission is free, light refreshments will be served, and DJ True Justice will provide entertainment. From 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., the public is invited to join in an arts engagement experience in the Olive Street Gallery. The space will be temporarily transformed into a reading room, and attendees may peruse art books and visit with one another and the artists.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Lori Tobias is a journalist of many years, and was a staff writer for The Oregonian for more than a decade, and a columnist and features writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Her memoir “Storm Beat – A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast” was published in 2020 by Oregon State University press. She is also the author of the novel Wander, winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for literary fiction and a finalist for the 2017 International Book Awards for new fiction. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband Chan and rescue pup Gus.

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One Response

  1. found this quote:
    “We all are given a gift,” Bartow told Think Out Loud last year during a major retrospective of his work at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene. “My job is to be an artist. As I tell my son, who’s a hip-hop artist — I told him early on that we were given a blessing, and we were given a curse. Because sometimes it’s not much fun, but you have to do it.”

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