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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

"The Blessed Backboard," by Marissa Magdalena before it is hung for the annual Latination exhibit at Metro Galleries.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Betty Leonor's piece "Sin Rey (Without a King)" for Latination at Metro Galleries.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

"Love Never Fails" by Susan Roussel, foreground, and "Salsa de Amor" by Bob Parsons, two works in Latination, which opens Sept. 6 at Metro Galleries.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

"Jarabe Tapatia Dancers" by Greg Hauss, one of the pieces in Latination at Metro Galleries. One of the show's judges was so taken by the piece it was sold before the opening.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

A Frida Kahlo doll by Lynne Cartwright for the Latination exhibit at Metro Galleries.

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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Two paintings by Howard Perez are partially seen side by side as they wait to be hung for the Latination exhibit at Metro Galleries.

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A portion of Marissa Magdalena's installation piece "Like a Virgen!" for the Latination at Metro Galleries. The angel hangs on a platform that the viewer can stand on in front of a piece depicting the Virgin Mary to pose under her halo.

Many artists are willing to suffer for their art, but few are likely to take a beating for it. Marissa Magdalena is the rare exception.

Known for her innovative interactive installations, the artist once donned a party gown that doubled as a fully loaded pinata.

"'Quince Quince' was a solo show, modeled after a quinceneara," said the Bakersfield native who now calls Echo Park home. "The performance included the traditional dance, a waltz with dramas. ... My dancers, they hoisted me from the ceiling. They did what you do with a pinata and candy and glitter and goodies fell out."

The remaining accessory from that show -- a rhinestone crown of cactus -- is one of three pieces the artist has contributed to the fifth annual Latination exhibit, the Metro Galleries celebration of Latin art and culture that is by far the best attended and most highly anticipated First Friday of the year.

"Last year, I tried to focus it into a theme -- fiesta -- and it just didn't work," said Metro Galleries president Don Martin. "There were lots of Dia de los Muertos pieces. ... (This year) I saw a lot of excitement from the artists. Even though it's Latin-inspired, it's close to a 50-50 (mix). They're not all Latin artists."

Looking back over five years, Martin also noted Latination's growth from the first show, which featured about 40 entries, to now, when he's contending with more than 130 individual submissions.

Considering the breadth of work, with many local artists as well as some from as far as the East Coast, Martin said he enlists an unconventional group of judges.

"I do this different than a regular juried show. It's a gift to the community. I don't bring in a lot of gallerists, artists. All walks of life come in. Some spend an hour, some spending 20 minutes" reviewing the art.

This year's panel of 12 was a mix of new and returning judges, including Esther Brandon, Kim Jessup, Californian CEO Richard Beene, Leticia Perez, Candi Easter, Lisette Stinson, Mimi Audelo, Jackie Parks Karli, Lynda Halligan and Audrey Chavez.

Chavez, founder of the Bakersfield AIDS Project and co-owner of Martin's Meats and Deli, said she was excited to be chosen as a first-time judge.

"I've always attended Latination, so I knew there would be some really wonderful works of art. I was amazed by the number of pieces that were there. I love to see the different types of ways that people express themselves."

Among those that stood out to her was a piece by returning artist Jorge Guillen called "Beautiful Dark Skinned Chicana," a larger-than-life painting of a woman in a beret with a marriage equality pin and a bandolier of real bullets.

"Being someone of color, I felt that really spoke to me to what we're going through today. Boldness of the vibrant colors. (But) it's not just the canvas and the paint, it's the social message. Very motivating, it spoke to who a young Chicana is today."

The judge also was struck by another painting of a woman, "Samba Heat," by first-time entrant Rubia Van Roodselaar.

"(It had a) style different than the others there. A woman dancer looks like the '70s. It had some really beautiful color. It was like something you could see displayed in a nice upscale restaurant or a home with a lot of eclectic pieces."

Trained as an architect, Van Roodselaar took up painting only last year, after some inspiring words from Cal State Bakersfield instructor and Madigan Gallery curator Joey Kötting.

"He's been just an amazing person for me as an artist. ... He said, 'Let go of the fear and try things out. Don't be afraid to try to put out there what you feel.' He gave me a gift."

Having moved to Bakersfield from Texas last year just before Latination, Van Roodselaar was ready to enter the show this year with a striking painting that evokes her Brazilian roots.

"When I came to California, I saw so many different Latin cultures together and sharing so many things in common. A very warm energy, festival and music. When I painted, I thought about the movement and the warmth that comes across to the viewers."

Among the other standouts are the trio of pieces submitted by Magdalena, particularly her rhinestone crown of cactus, which carries a cultural message beyond its obvious visual appeal.

"'Nopal en mi frente' is based on a quinceanera crown," Magdalena said. "It's a Spanish colloquialism, historically a putdown. In the vernacular, it means if you looked any more indigenous, you would have a cactus growing out of your forehead.

"My friends and I, third-generation Americans, we took ownership of the term. When people would see me, I have very Latin American features. They would associate me with things that might or might not be part of a culture. So if you're going to see a cactus growing out of my head, mine is bling. Mine will be shiny and outrageous, 10 inches tall."

Other artists in the show include Lynne Cartwright, Ashleymarie Sey Lively, Betty Leonor, Jennifer Shrader, Kim Perales, Susan Roussel, Jesus Fidel, Linda Osburn, Alberto Herrera and Greg Hauss.

New this year is Latination Kids, for which submissions were still trickling in as of Tuesday (the work is not judged). Martin expected about 15 pieces, including some from the Boys & Girls Club.

The works already on hand included those from twins Emma and Eli Prestage, 13, who mirrored each other's paintings of hands sectioned and filled in with various symbols and motifs. Aida Olivo chose a bold singular image of a festive skull on a sky blue background.

A late addition to the show, the kids exhibit is one of the elements that Martin said would be revamped for future Latination shows.

"I came up with the idea late for Latination Kids. If I do this again next year, it's a great show but I want to see where to take it from here. Evaluate it after; is there another level, theme. Sometimes you want to go out on top. Like the Bakersfield Business Conference -- that's once every five years."

Regardless of what the future holds, Martin is confident that he'll be part of an annual September show that draws the community downtown.

"There is still a lot of support and excitement."

Chavez echoes the sentiment, saying she's looking foward to Friday night.

"It's great to see the community come together. It's a whole other world there on First Friday."