Rick Harlow

A Boston-born artist, Rick received his BFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 1973 and his MFA from University of Cincinnati in 1979. His work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions, and has been reviewed by publications such as The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald and Art New England. He has also appeared in Cultural Survival Quarterly and Earthwatch for his projects with indigenous communities. His paintings are frequently on display at Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Massachusetts. He has been an invited speaker at many colleges and organizations in the United States and abroad.

Artist Statement

“For the past 31 years I have been traveling to Colombia. Much of this time I spent along the rivers Apaporis and Mitití Paraná, living with Macuna, Yucuna, and Tanimuca peoples. They taught me to feel at home and at ease in the forest, how to walk without falling down, how to hunt, fish and gather food. They taught me about the different plants, insects and animals. They showed me which ones are useful, which are dangerous and which are sacred. They told me their stories of how their world was created, stories of how they came to live there, stories that explain their relationship to all living things and their place and purpose in the web of life. Stories that contain great lessons on how to live correctly, stories of the spirits that live in the rivers, in the forest, in the underworld and in the Milky Way. They invited me to participate in their rituals, dances and sacred ceremonies. They initiated me into the tribe and gave me a new name. They introduced me to the visionary teacher plant Yajé (Banisteriopsis caapi) or Ayahuasca as it is more commonly known. I was taught that this sacred plant is the umbilical cord that connects us to the cosmos.”

“These experiences have served as the main inspiration for my paintings. In creating these works, I do my best to paint not only what I have seen, but also what I have felt or sensed. Sometimes I combine landscape with visions I have had during the rituals.”

The Elder’s Project

In 2008, I visited the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on the Northeast Coast of Colombia, known as “The Heart of the World”. This coastal mountain range is home to the Kogui, Arhuaco, Wiwa and Kankuamo pueblos. In 2009 I entered into an agreement with the Traditional Elders of these pueblos to support their efforts for the preservation and continuance of their spiritual practices as guardians of the Heart of the World. My duties involve recording and documenting the spiritual work with photography and video, fundraising for the annual Black Line Journeys, providing support for the education of a new generation of mamos and publishing the recorded wisdom of deceased Elders for their historical archives. Click here to learn more about The Elder’s Project.


Over the years, Rick has kept good notes of his experiences with the Colombian indigenous groups. You can read these notes on the Journal page, including field notes from the Yaïgojé-Apaporis Papermaking Project that he coordinated to help the communities generate their own income.

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