Artist Gita Lloyd was aglow with a sense of accomplishment at the Oct. 1 opening of her "Bakersfield Alive!" exhibit at the Arts Council of Kern.

"I feel like a bride; this is my wedding," said Lloyd, as she gestured toward the 12 large canvases that make up the series.

Even though she's an experienced artist, Lloyd admits that at the outset she had a few doubts about completing her goal.

"In January, when I started, I sort of challenged myself to do it. One of the things I asked myself was, 'Can I do it, physically?' I mean these are huge -- each canvas is 4 by 5 feet." With a satisfied sigh, she added, "And I did it."

Her goal at the outset was to paint scenes that captured the pulse of the community, and to paint each canvas on site and in public so others could watch as she worked.

"I wanted people to see what it's like to be a painter," she explained, "and to see what I see when I look around a room."

Onlookers had the opportunity to do just that at indoor and outdoor settings that ranged from a Condors' hockey game at Centennial Garden to a group of teens in the midst of a lush field of carrots at Val Ridge Farms. Incidentally, all of the kids in the latter painting autographed the reverse side of the canvas.

Each painting is hung high on the walls of the Arts Council gallery and tilted a few degrees, which makes for better viewing. The placement also allows space underneath each canvas for a page of Lloyd's "diary" -- thoughts she recorded during the production of each piece -- as well as related materials.

For example, a yellowed newspaper ad showing 1936 prices is displayed below a painting of the Green Frog Market. And a fur-trimmed, buckskin drum hangs beneath Lloyd's rendition of the Standing Bear Pow Wow.

Lloyd uses broad, sweeping strokes to create pictures in an impressionistic style that conveys a sense of freedom. What is perhaps most unusual is her ability to create figures and objects that have the quality of being, simultaneously, both illusory and recognizable. Facial features are barely delineated yet her unusual capacity to capture body language is telling in many ways.

For instance, most concertgoers would quickly recognize John Farrer's commanding stance as he conducts the Bakersfield Symphony. And there's something compelling about the way musician Nat Dove is shown leaning forward, as if he's encouraging you to become a part of the scene.

The Arts Council hopes to take the show on the road, exhibiting it in various parts of the county. Meanwhile, it will be on view at the gallery, 2000 K St., Suite 110, until Nov. 12. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday.

Maestri Gallery exhibit

A new exhibit featuring two local artists, David Gordon and Ryan Rickard, also opened Oct. 1 at Maestri Gallery, 2024 Chester Ave.

Gordon, who paints in acrylics, focuses on outdoor scenes in an area of southwest Bakersfield familiar to him since his childhood.

"I grew up between Pumpkin Center and Old River, between Gosford and Ashe roads," said Gordon, who is director of the education program at Bakersfield Museum of Art.

One painting that gives a keen sense of that heritage is "The Monte Carlo." Something of a landmark, the white stucco building houses a barroom that has been a popular stopping place for generations of farmers and hunters in the area southwest of Bakersfield known as Old River.

"North Bound on Union Avenue" is one painting that will seem familiar to residents of the San Joaquin Valley -- regardless of where they grew up. Obviously done in winter, it shows a single stretch of eucalyptus-bordered highway, with a white center line that ultimately disappears into a mist of fog.

Rickard's work is notable for its linear, almost cubistic quality. Most of his pieces are highly detailed serigraphs or monotints. Some are etched using the intaglio method; a few are collages incorporating several styles.

Many of his pieces are studies of Dumpsters, which are depicted in various settings. By way of explanation, Rickard said, "I worked for Varner Brothers (a garbage collection company) for about five years. I got to know Dumpsters pretty well."

Art classes for both children and adults are being offered by Maestri owner Robert Spinzo. Call 327-1904.

"Okie" history program

Former Bakersfield resident Elizabeth Strickland, author of "Route 66 to the Fields of California," will present "Living Okie History" at two Kern County Library branches. She will read excerpts from her book and show photos that chronicle her family's migration from Oklahoma to Kern County. Programs are scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Beale Library, 701 Truxtun Ave., and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lamont branch, 8304 Segrue Road.

Camille Gavin can be reached via e-mail at gavinarts@aol.com.

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