1 of 3

Buy Photo

Courtesy of Bakersfield Museum of Art

“Cut Tree,” an oil on canvas painting by Roland Petersen.

2 of 3

Buy Photo

Courtesy of Bakersfield Museum of Art

“7-up Bottle,” a Ruku-fired ceramic by Karen Shapiro.

3 of 3

Buy Photo

Courtesy of Bakersfield Museum of Art

“It’s All About Scale,” a watercolor on paper painting by Robert Townsend.

A retrospective of paintings by Roland Petersen -- heralded as "one of the most prominent living California artists" -- sets the tone for the Fall Exhibitions opening Thursday evening at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

Curator Vikki Cruz said a large selection of the Bay Area artist's works will be displayed in two connecting areas in the central part of the museum, the Dezember and Cunningham galleries.

"This exhibition features over 30 works, including (Petersen's) vigorous gestural paintings of the 1950s," Cruz said. "It also includes his vividly colored 'Picnic Series,' highlighting his prolific career as one of the most prominent living California artists."

This particular series had its genesis at UC Davis, where Petersen taught for many years. It seems that "Picnic Day" was a tradition at Davis and the setting always included large umbrellas, an assortment of food, along with artists, scholars and their families set against the backdrop of the Sacramento Valley.

Cruz went on to quote Petersen, who once said: "I could take the tabletop, throw it into the landscape, and then I'd set my figures around it. The picnic seemed to be the best excuse to bring the still life, the figure, and the landscape together all in one. It seemed to be the natural kind of path for me to follow."

(Incidentally, the museum is planning a picnic day of its own on Sept. 29. Watch for details in the Sept. 26 edition of Eye Street.)

Peterson is expected to attend tonight's opening, as is Robert Townsend, a pop realist painter based in Los Angeles.

Townsend's photo-realistic watercolors, along with equally realistic ceramics by Karen Shapiro, will be shown in the Ablin Gallery. Both are contemporary artists who create work based on memory and imagination.

For example, some of Townsend's paintings include metal soda-pop bottle caps, matchbooks and scaled-down models of 1950s-era cars, while one of Shapiro's super-sized pieces is a 16-inch-high replica of a 7UP bottle. Although Shapiro considers herself new to the ceramics circle, Cruz said, the techniques of kneading and forming, carving and cutting, baking and glazing are not new to the artist. For 30 years, she worked as a pastry chef, sculpting the ultimate edible artform.

Also being shown is "Designs of Culture," or Disenos de Cultura, the work of Alfredo Arreguin, a native of Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. At age 13 he moved to Mexico City and 10 years later moved to Seattle, where he received his bachelor's and master of fine arts degrees from the University of Washington.

Arreguin's paintings are a patchwork of cultural icons intricately organized onto his large canvases, Cruz said. From a distance the work appears to be silkscreened but upon closer inspection thin layers of pigment and inconspicuously placed imagery from pre-Columbian cultures emerge. Most of his canvases are quite large, as big as 64 by 43 inches, and every inch is occupied with complex designs. Most identifiable are his portraits of iconic cultural figures such as the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata or the painter Frida Kahlo. These highly recognizable figures are portrayed in hues of blue and red, adding a hypnotic mystery to these cultural themes.

A fourth segment of the exhibition highlights work from the museum's education programs. It appears in the Corridor Gallery, the hallway to the left of the lobby, and features work by children from throughout Kern County who have received instruction from museum instructors in on-site and outreach programs.

Following the reception, the fall exhibitions can be seen through Jan. 6 during the museum's usual open hours.