Dozens walk the streets of Bakersfield each First Friday without giving the urban landscape a thought, but the sights of downtown Bakersfield have had a much more profound impact on artist David Cook, whose work will be displayed at The Foundry this week. Cook looked to the city and the Kern River Valley, where he lives, for "Beyond Perception," his first public show.
"As an artist you will see things in your life that just grab your attention. When they do, you're thinking, Could that be a painting?
"I was downtown one day, and the area just kind of grabbed me. Once it grabbed my attention, walking around, absorbing things, taking it in. I became aware of how beautiful downtown Bakersfield is."
From that experience, Cook began painting, creating 15 pieces that evoke the feelings he has about Bakersfield, where he grew up.
"In summer, it just has that bright light, it's very warm, and you think of running barefoot and jumping in pools and going to a dark theater to cool off. Then being blinded by the light bouncing off the walls and the cars (when you walk out).
"Bakersfield still has that nostalgic hometown American feel to it, especially when you're downtown, because the buildings are older and the way things are set up. I was trying to capture that feeling and those moments in time. Line and shape and form, that's what I tried to emphasize."
The exhibit of 30 works also explores the look of the Kern River Valley.
"The other half is the Sierra Nevada, particularly in the Kern River Valley. It's not your normal landscape scene. I would look at things here and see what I saw, the lines, the shapes and develop an abstract from that. Abstract drawings of objects outside -- trees, bushes, water, sky -- up in this area."
Cook also credits his grandfather for sparking his passion for art.
"My grandfather wasn't a professional artist but he learned to draw. During the Depression, they had these work camps. He learned to draw then. When I was 5 years old, he sat me on his lap and he drew a horse. I thought it was the neatest thing in the world. I needed to learn how to do that.
"The rest of my life I've been trying to achieve that. It's been a lifelong endeavor."
Cook continued to pursue his art while raising a family and working as an educator for 20-plus years in the Fruitvale School District. Although one might think work and family would hinder artistic development, Cook feels the opposite.
"I never separated my life into segments like that. I just felt that everything I was doing was a form of art. Teaching is an art in itself. There is an art to being a parent. All your experiences in life, they benefit a painting or a drawing or a work of art."
BAA Art Center
Along with a show by Linda Brown opening at Dagny's Coffee Co. (more on Page 20), the Bakersfield Art Association is hosting a show by Carol Bradshaw at its Art Center on Eye Street.
A freelance art instructor for more than 40 years, Bradshaw works in watercolor, graphite, colored pencil and pen and ink, according to the BAA newsletter. For this show, she will exhibit a series of botanical watercolors, labor-intensive detailed works of flowers, vegetables and fruit.
After a botanical drawing class hooked the artist, she pursued more classes in drawing and watercolor as well as botanical workshops at the Huntington and the Arboretum in Los Angeles County.