Those seeking fresh local art without as much hubbub as First Friday brings can head to the Arts Council of Kern. The organization hosts its opening receptions the week after the monthly gathering, allowing art lovers an opportunity to head back downtown for something special.

This month's show is no exception with two artists exhibiting in the show opening Thursday at the council's Access Center Gallery. First up is longtime local artist Bill Ryan, who will display a collection called “Artist Eclectic.” Digital artist John Buford will also be featured in the exhibition.

Ryan has been drawing and painting for 70 years, 62 of them in Bakersfield. In addition to creating his own work, he guided students at North High School, where he served as chairman of the Fine Arts Department.

In his statement for the show, Ryan wrote about the various art movements that are part of his work.

During the 1950s, Ryan leaned toward expressionism and abstract expressionism, embracing the freedom in the style that connects to the energy the artist portrays in paint and brushstrokes. The artist made the connection of creating that art to performing jazz, which he was also well-versed in as a trumpet player.

The exhibit also includes some of Ryan's pop art, which he describes as a kind on neo-Dadaism, that includes common subjects not featured in classic art such as comic book characters, large sculptures of hamburgers and rows of cream pies.

Ryan describes his “Road to Breckenridge” series, including the pieces “Chaparral to the Pines,” “It’s Not Your Land” and “Into the Pines,” as post-impressionism and expressionism.

While Ryan embraced visual art and music, Buford said his first love was film. 

Studying film in the mid-90s at the Academy of Art University, he was drawn to the idea of creating portraits of a character in motion. He studied computer animation but found himself drawn to charcoal studies more than anything else.

"I absolutely hated it, feeling I was floating further and further away from the ideas I once loved," he wrote in his artist statement. "I felt I had little talent in the subject, and was overwhelmed and insecure almost every time I had to present to my class. I wanted to quit."

Struggling with the work, he toughed it out for four years of complicated charcoal drawing classes, but eventually began to work digitally.

"It was here that I began to thrive again, having had years of experience with Photoshop and similar applications," Buford wrote.

"I applied what I learned from traditional drawing and painting, and began creating worlds and characters I once strived for on a moving canvas." 

The work he's displaying is a collection of digital drawings, paintings and composite work, and includes a small series of the great icons we’ve lost over the decades, a new compilation celebrating family and the dead, and concept pieces incorporating new ideas into existing franchises.

Of the pieces, he wrote, "In everything I do, my goal is to present familiar things in a different way, and to immortalize them in a unique light."

The opening reception will be held Thursday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the gallery, 1330 Truxtun Ave. Refreshments will be served. Call 324-9000 for more information.

Into the 'Wild'

This is the time of year when everyone is looking for holiday gift ideas.

One fun option for the whole family, which has a local connection, is "Wild Wisdom: Animal Stories of the Southwest" by Rae Ann Kumelos. Kumelos will be holding a book signing Sunday at Barnes & Noble.

In addition to being an author, Kumelos is a professor of English and mythology at Bakersfield College. It was her earlier studies in native literary tradition and myth (for her masters and Ph.D.) — with a focus on animal stories — that drew the attention of a book publisher who tapped her and animal artist Jan Taylor, a longtime friend, to do a book about animal stories.

The 15 stories include the tales of tribes from the Southwest and Plains as well of those of the Yokuts and Chumash stories, which might be of more interest to local readers. Kumelos said one of the favorite stories in the book is Hawk, Crow and Duck, adapted from a wonderful 1913 version of the Yokut story. 

The book was selected by New Mexico Magazine as a Gift Book of the Year in 2016 and was recently awarded a medal for Best Gift Book by the Independent Publishers Book Awards Association.

A Bakersfield native, Kumelos lived in Arizona and New Mexico for many years before returning to town. In addition to teaching, she hosts a national radio program, "Voice of the Animal," broadcast via XM Satellite and 140 independent stations in the U.S. and Canada. She records the program scripts at BC with Dr. Josh Ottum and the BC Commercial Music Program, so the students have an opportunity to hear their work broadcast nationwide.

She will be signing her book from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Barnes & Noble, 4001 California Ave.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.