The heat is on downtown for this First Friday with red-hot art from a new local group, three-dimensional abstract work and a show celebrating the Bakersfield Sound.
On Fridays, many head to the Padre Hotel with their mind on cocktails, not art, but "The Apparat" is set to change that, at least for this week. Tonight and tomorrow, this group of five artists will present an eclectic collection of work in Prospect Lounge.
"We like the art scene in Bakersfield, but we do make some different work than Bakersfield is used to seeing," said group member Andrew Hawley.
"We'll show Bakersfield what we're doing currently, show them some digital media, a lot of experimentation, not very common things. You don't see a lot of paper cuts, screen-printing locally."
"The Apparat" is the product of the group of the same name, consisting of Hawley and four other artists -- Emily Becerra, Tommy Charmley, Adam Schwartz and Karen Dever -- who are linked in a number of ways. Hawley, Becerra and Schwartz work at the Bakersfield Museum of Art along with being art alumni of Cal State Bakersfield, where they met Dever. Charmley, a friend of Hawley's who is currently studying art at BC, rounds out the quintet.
Though they share assorted connections, their artistic styles vary.
"Tom, his paintings deal with subconscious; the style is surreal with his work. Emily deals with a whimsical style, people and figures in her work and nature. Adam and I and Karen are into experimental stuff. We experiment with different things, say, 'what if I do this?' See what happens if you put a video camera on a scanner, experiment with digital media."
Along with diverse artistic styles, the group connected through a desire to display their work without the pressure of solo exhibition.
"Since we're most of us graduated from Cal State, we looked around (for places to exhibit). We would all love to do an individual show, but it's hard to come out with a lot of pieces. If we all make two or three really strong pieces, we can have enough for one show."
The group will exhibit 15 pieces, including photographs, screen and digital ink jet prints, paintings and a large-scale paper cut.
"When I originally contacted the Padre, I wanted the (Farmacy) cafe. The Prospect Lounge is a club, basically. But we saw the potential because it was big enough, we can have food, we can put up more pieces. We think it's a great location."
And if people head in for appetizers or to patronize the club's bar, Hawley said he'd welcome the foot traffic.
"That would be great. That's what we're hoping for, people coming in."
Chances are certainly good for a crowd on First Friday, something that Hawley said he's watched grow over the years.
"I remember when First Friday first started and it was just very, very small and now we have a lot of interest in it. All those businesses moving into that area. Dagny's, The Foundry, showing local work. I think it's great to show off local work. It's great to see what other people are doing locally and how they express themselves."
Those local artists pulled up their boots at The Foundry this month for a show celebrating a local music tradition. "Bakersfield Country -- The Legends of the Bakersfield Sound" pays tribute to 13 musical pioneers, from Merle Haggard and Buck and Bonnie Owens to Red Simpson, Billy Mize and Wynn Stewart.
For the collection of portraits, The Foundry selected a "hit list" of artists, many of whom grew up listening to the music.
"Having spent so much of my early childhood watching 'The Cousin Herb Trading Post Gang' on Channel 10, one could say that 'Bakersfield Country' was infused into my DNA," wrote Gary Sutherland in his artist statement. "As a preschooler, age 4, I can distinctly recall my initiation to that unique electric sound, and Fuzzy Owen's pedal steel guitar in particular."
"When I was tapped for the show, the first name proposed to me was Buck," wrote Brynia Harris-Czubko. "No way. Yes way. After years of this enigmatic persona shadowing my life, this show has given me the opportunity to immortalize the man who has been a source of entertainment through both his engaging enterprises and his twangy sound that paved the way for the country stars that rocked KUZZ when I was a kid."
Artist Alan Urquhart actually had first-hand experience, having met his subject, musician and talent scout Bill Woods, as well as legends Mize and Simpson, at recording sessions for musician and family friend Ken Nordin.
"The one thing I remember about Bill, even being limited to a wheelchair at that point in his life, was that he was at almost every recording session lending his ear and his support. He was always friendly and never turned down a conversation. I enjoyed hearing the stories of Bakersfield past, especially the ones that never made the history books."
Alan's father, Ray, also contributed to the exhibit, providing photographs from the era.
About 100 photos will be on display, including those contributed by Joe Saunders (Mize's grandson), Wren Tidwell (Stewart's daughter) and Woods' family.
Also setting the mood is a mural by gallery executive director Christina Sweet.
"I painted a black-and-white mural of a picture taken out in front of the Blackboard club," Sweet wrote. "The picture includes the side wall of the nightclub with bikers and motorcycles parked out front."
And since this show demands a soundtrack, musicians will perform songs of the era on Friday (Therese Muller and Vince Galindo).
Another show that will enjoy an extended run is the new collection at Metro Galleries. Designated the annual women's exhibition, the exhibit, featuring collections from artists Tina Bluefield and Moira Fain, in part benefits the Women's and Girls' Fund, improving the quality of life for women in Kern County.
Although neither artist knew about the show's benefit when agreeing to participate, both are happy to be supporting a good cause.
It's tough being a woman, it's really tough," Fain said. "I don't know if that's changed, I suppose that's who you ask. I really think we haven't seen the day. There is a lot more that needs to change."
Bluefield agreed, sharing a personal story to make her point:
"My mother wanted to be a chemist, but she was born in 1915. It would have been the '30s; her family didn't have enough money to send her through college. She ended up working in bank and that's where she met my dad. But she always talked about how she loved chemistry."
Bluefield said it took her daughter to encourage her to earn her bachelor's degree in painting at University of Colorado Boulder.
Now living in Joshua Tree, Bluefield said her abstract work has taken inspiration from the desert.
When Metro creative director Don Martin sought another woman for this show, Bluefield recommended fellow desert dweller Fain. Bonded by art, the pair's friendship bloomed when Fain moved from Manhattan more than a year ago.
"Tina has been an incredibly good friend as an artist. We've had many talks together about life. Women can get very close on very many issues. And be a business associate, saying, 'There are galleries out there, let me introduce you.' She's a hardworking artist to be so caring and to share like that."
For the first time, Fain will show three-dimensional works that incorporate paintings, sculpture and mobiles.
Bluefield's and Fain's works will be exhibited through the main gallery and the adjacent Eye Street expansion, currently under construction.