Co-curators Jesus Fidel and Susan Roussel have done a bang-up job showcasing the artistic talent of more than 25 women with a slightly ghoulish -- but festive -- Halloween theme.
"Out of the Ashes," as it's called, opened Sunday inside and outside of The Empty Space. Numerous paintings and sculptures were being shown in the theater's gallery, and about 20 vendors displaying hand-crafted items were stationed around the outer entrance.
Circling the perimeter was a black-cloaked, 15-feet-tall puppet with stringy red hair and a green hooked nose protruding from its ceramic face. It was manned by Eric Lemons.
"Jesus used 30 yards of fabric to make the costume," Roussel said. "I sculpted the head."
If you missed the opening, don't despair. The event will be repeated on Oct. 28. And the artwork can be seen this weekend in the gallery 30 minutes before the Empty's current production of "Gorey Stories."
Now called "Out of the Ashes," it's an annual art exhibit that originated in 2006 as "Burn the Witch." This year's show presents a greater number of artists than any of the previous years. And, to me, the increase in participation is a vast improvement.
Another plus is the transformation of the theater's gallery, which also serves as its lobby. The co-curators have framed interior doors with columns of folded black fabric. The fabric is imprinted with tiny flying angels and tied back with thick golden cords. One wall is devoted to framed photos of each artist in Halloween-styled garb that were taken by Laurin K. Lee. A brief bio is mounted next to each picture.
Several pieces of artwork caught my eye. Among them were Alison Beitzel's "Candy," a large, eerie portrait of a nurse with thin threads of blackened blood dripping from her eyes, nose, lips and fingertips; Stephanie Fidel's "Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen," a framed molded plastic sculpture of a pregnant woman's torso with two fetuses visible on the inside; a powerful pop-art rendition of the late Jimi Hendrix done by Audrey Jarvis; and Jessica McEuen's "Joan," a large painting of dozens of hands reaching upward as if trying to reach a faceless young woman whose head is outlined by a halo-like border of gold.
Puppet show at Gaslight
Omnipresent Puppet Theater's version of "Hansel and Gretel" is a comic re-creation of the timeless tale with just the right amount of scariness for children as young as 4. Two 45-minute shows will be staged on Saturday at the Gaslight Melodrama Theatre.
Professional puppeteer Don Kruszka does a splendid job of voicing all the characters and connecting with the audience.
I hope I'm not giving too much away, but my favorite part is seeing the witch get popped into the oven.
Brass quintet concert
A group of local musicians known as Brass Ã la Carte will be featured on Sunday in the Dukes Memorial Concert series.
Headed by trumpet player Michael Raney, it includes Glenn Bowles, on tuba; Ronald Christian, trombone; Sal Panelli, trumpet; and Michael Stone, euphonium.
Since its formation in 1989, said Raney, the group has been active in performing for weddings, festive parties, church programs, live theater and concerts. Their planned program will consist primarily of works by 19th century American composers.
Art and soccer
To some, art and soccer have little in common. But the sport has brought together a group of young Los Angeles artists -- most are in their 30s -- whose work is presently on display at the Todd Madigan Gallery at Cal State Bakersfield.
"It's sort of a tongue-in-cheek show -- artists who play soccer," said Joey Kotting, curator. "That's the genesis of it."
Kotting explained that for the past three years, a group of artists, writers and curators have met on Sunday afternoons in a Los Angeles park to play the game.
"They come together, not to exchange ideas and theses," he said, "but to kick around a soccer ball, to exercise and sweat, to clear their heads of the past week's activities and prepare for the week to come."
And with that in mind, a few hours before the opening reception last Sunday, the artists met a team of CSUB alumni assembled by Ken Taylor, the university's soccer captain in 2011-12.And the outcome?
"The alumni won," said Alyssa Torres, with a rueful smile. Torres, who was on duty in the gallery the day I visited, is taking a course taught by Kotting that's designed to train students to be curators.
A continuation of the lighthearted nature of the pre-game activity is conveyed by the first thing you see upon entering the gallery. It's a video of a film clip from a Monty Python movie showing a soccer match, Greeks vs. Germans.
The bearded members of the Greek team wear flowing white togas; their opponents wear everything from lederhosen to 18th century courtiers dressed in fancy satin waistcoats edged with lacy ruffles.
The exhibit itself gives visitors a glimpse of what's going on in contemporary art these days. And as Kotting says, it's a way of creating a link between our community and people who previously knew nothing about Bakersfield.
"They (artists) are all at different stages of their careers," he said, "and all are quite successful in the United States and some around the world."
Their artwork at the Madigan shows a notable degree of individuality. It includes video, photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, and performance and installation art.
For instance, on one wall is an HD digital animation centered by a simple line drawing of two birds having a conversation. At various intervals, and quite unexpectedly, colorful objects such as a bomb or a hatchet interrupt the peaceful scene by doing a nosedive from above.
On another wall is an enormous print -- 125-by-92 inches -- by Kelly Barrie. It's titled "Double Toe Rope, Netting." The longer you look at it, the more the netting morphs into unusual shapes. Another very large piece is "Knight #5" by Karl Haendel. A pencil drawing on paper, it measures 102-by-81 inches.
Two of the most colorful pieces are Adria Julia's photos of individual glass cases. One shows a collection of items, including a bust of Lenin, vodka bottles and a handsomely carved chess set.
The exhibit can be seen through Nov. 10. Usual gallery hours are 1-6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 1-5 p.m. on Saturday.
The gallery is on the north side of the campus, adjacent to the Dore Theatre. A parking permit is required.