This fall, the Bakersfield Museum of Art explores the beauty of California. Whether plunging the depths of the Pacific, traveling to a valley not unlike our own or just driving around town, the new exhibitions highlight what's compelling about our state.

Although her subjects also include train tracks, gas stations and fireworks, painter Natalie Arnoldi also shines in her depictions of marine life. The marine biologist, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in marine ecology at Stanford, utilized her training as an influence for her work in "Of the Sea," her first solo exhibition.

(Her name should be familiar to museumgoers; her father, renowned California painter Charles Arnoldi, had an exhibition at BMoA last summer spanning 50 years of his work.)

Seven of Arnoldi's oil paintings will be on display, presenting an environmental narrative utilizing different methods of painting. The bold "Gigi" will cut an imposing figure, depicting a great white shark in a life-size painting measuring 8.5 feet by 24 feet.

Arnoldi worked in a lab that uses satellite tags to study great white shark migration and behavior in the Northeast Pacific. Many of the same sharks would return each fall to elephant seal colonies, where they would gorge on mammals before a spring migration west.

In her artist's notes, Arnoldi notes that sharks can be identified by their dorsal fins, which are as unique to each animal as a fingerprint is to a human. That identifier is how they recognized Gigi, an 18-foot female seen at the Año Nuevo tagging site in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Arnoldi wrote, Gigi "is a curious shark who is unafraid to approach the tagging vessel." Based on her length and girth, she was likely an older white shark with high reproductive potential, making her "a crucial individual in the small population of great white sharks off of the California Coast.”

Those who cannot make the opening reception can learn more about Arnoldi when she comes to discuss her work and career on Oct. 12 as part of the ongoing Second Saturday Lecture Series.

‘Cuyama’

In his series of photos, Noé Montes documents the Cuyama Valley, a city 60 miles southwest of Bakersfield that may remind viewers of sights close to home. The 42 prints depict the valley's unique people, environment and culture.

"BMoA has displayed regional and internationally known artists in recent years, this exhibition brings the idea of home to the forefront, in both physical distance and notions of community," BMoA curator Rachel Magnus wrote in an email. "It reminds people of California’s Central Valley as a rich and diverse place of people and culture."

Born in Modesto, Montes is the son of migrant farmworkers who traveled up and down the Central Valley following harvests. 

Over the last 25 years, the photographer has focused on documentary work around a specific social issue or geographic location. That work then fosters community and civic engagement through programming with local partners, Magnus said. For this project, Montes teamed with the Blue Sky Center, which works within the Cuyama community on economic development projects.

At the same time he was working on "Cuyama," Montes also worked with senior art majors at Cal State Bakersfield on a series of photographs titled "New Eyes." The temporary exhibit will open at the museum's Art After Dark on Sept. 26 and run through Nov. 9.

Like Arnoldi, Montes will also take part in the Second Saturday Lecture Series, speaking on Nov. 9 at 10:30 a.m.

‘Bakersfield Built’

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Bakersfield was in a unique position to reap the bounty of Bakersfield-born architects. A group of students who were first trained by local architect Clarence Cullimore at Kern County Union High School before going on to graduate from the USC School of Architecture then returned to Bakersfield, primed with fresh ideas that blazed a midcentury path through town. 

For "Bakersfield Built: Architecture of the 1960s," the museum collaborated with the Kern County Museum, CSUB and the Society of Architectural Historians/Southern California Chapter. The museum is displaying blueprints, photographs, renderings and furniture to reflect the design trends of the fruitful period featuring the work of the local architects as well as Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed the Ablin Residence, his last commission that he did not live to see completed.

Not all of the pieces on display reflect a completed structure. "Scheme Unknown Entry Perspective," a rendering by architect John Lautner, was from a project he began with Bakersfield attorney Milt Younger, who was building a home for his family in Country Club Park. Lautner prepared several alternative schemes based on the circle and the hexagon but the project never came to fruition, Magnus said.

Along with the on-site exhibition, the presentation will include a symposium and guided home tour with Sian Winship, president of the Society of Architectural Historians Southern California Chapter (Sept. 21); a lecture with Winship at the Kern County Museum (Oct. 9); a downtown walking tour with Kern County Museum curator Lori Wear (Oct. 5); and a Second Saturday lecture with Ron Lidgren, architect and expert on the designs of Edward A. Killingsworth (Dec. 14). For more information, visit bmoa.org/bakersfieldbuilt.

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

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