On the cusp of changing seasons, put a spring in your step as you head downtown for First Friday, which marks the opening of two group art shows.
Returning this year to The Foundry is the popular "Art Imitates Art," inspired by New York artist Dave DeVries' "The Monster Engine Project." For last April's show, artists age 10 and younger drew a monster or creature on 8.5-by-11-inch paper, which inspired a companion piece by a Foundry member.
Based on the response to last year's show, which featured 23 pairings, The Foundry decided to revisit the theme with a change.
"We let the kids decide (their subject) this time around," said Christina Sweet, the gallery's executive director.
This batch of 36 pairings takes at least a bit of inspiration from the animal kingdom, with a fish and dog among the works.
Although submissions were still coming in as of Wednesday, Sweet said she was excited by what she's seen so far.
"This year is even more amazing than last year. ... The artists are happy. This project really opens the artists' eyes and everyone learns something new."
Artist Jennifer Williams agrees with that sentiment. Participating for the second year, the 28-year-old graphic designer and wedding photographer said that this stretched her artistically.
"For this show, my primary medium of photography isn't really an option because of the guidelines. So, it's always fun to branch out and decide what medium I think would be best for capturing the essence of the child's piece."
The guidelines may have tested her skills, but Williams said that's a good thing.
"I think this show really helps adult artists go back to the pure joy of making art. The guidelines for the show are very specific about using the basic shapes in the child's work. At first it can seem limiting, but I have found it's best not to overthink it.
"It's not about changing what they've created, but enhancing it with our own creative skills. The children provide the imagination, and kick-start the creative process. Then we just get to take their creativity and run with it."
For this show, Williams was given a drawing of a dog by Sweet's daughter, Audrey.
Of her piece, "Barkley," the 8-year-old said, "My friend, Lillianna, taught me how to draw a dog. Barkley is the name of her friend Sydney's dog."
Williams was delighted to work with the piece.
"When I saw it, I thought it was adorable, but I also loved that the young artist was telling a story. ... I loved her drawing style and thought she had already created a very distinctive main subject, Barkley.
"For this reason, I decided to stay very true to her work and just infuse some color and dimension into my interpretation. I made a collage of colored paper to achieve this and used photocopies of her work to match her shapes exactly. Then, I took liberty with the background and set Barkley in a colorful landscape."
Along with Williams, other participating artists include Sweet, Brynia Czubko, Jessica McEuen, Alan Urquhart, Joel Arvallo, Troy Brown and Kent Porterfield.
(Parents of young artists can start planning for next year's "Art Imitates Art" show by emailing Sweet at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Williams, who will team with fellow photographer Tim Chong for April's Foundry exhibit, said she is looking forward to seeing the art pairings on Friday.
"I got a sneak peek of a few but haven't seen them displayed side by side yet. I can't wait to check it out. This show never disappoints."
Also taking part in The Foundry's reception is Window Sill Pie Co., which will be selling Irish-themed treats. Items include a shortbread variety box, a pie assortment (Irish car bomb tart, pecan pocket pie with Jameson, Guinness chocolate pocket pie and Irish coffee tart), new jams from Pacific Northwest fruits, soda breads and Irish potato candies.
'Windows and Doors'
The group art effort will also be on display at the Bakersfield Art Association's Art Center with its "Windows and Doors" exhibit.
Comprising 16 works, the whimsical collection offers the artists' interpretation of the theme. Hollyhocks and bougainvillea grow outside some windows, and cats stand guard at doors and windows in other works. BAA art center manager Toni Lott even said one local building was highlighted for its colorful exterior.
"It's El Torito restaurant's awning and windows, that golden building with maroon- and cream-colored awnings. It's really lovely."
Along with enjoying the reception and the works, you can vote for your favorite. Voting is open now (during the art center's business hours) through March 7. The top three "people's choice" winners will be announced at the BAA monthly meeting next week.
"We like to have these (contests) on First Friday so people can vote. We award first, second and third. It is a monetary prize, $25 to $10. I won third place on our last group show. It's fun and exciting to be acknowledged this way."
The list of artists, which is a mix of frequent and first-time contributors, includes Iva Cross Fendrick, Patti Doolittle, Laura Mizrahi, Chris Romanini, Jeanie Truitt, Marilyn Cameron, Norma Eaton, Floyd Dillon and David Stiles.
Lott said the BAA usually hosts a group show once per quarter. The next may be centered around vacations, which she said is a common annual theme for summer, when artists return from travels with paintings.