Wednesday, Jan 08 2014 01:37 PM

Fairest of them all? This art exhibit

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    By Photo courtesy of Jesus Fidel

    "€œEvil Queen," a watercolor and pen/ink work by Shelley Juhl-O'Brien and Christopher O'€™Brien, is part of "Whistle While You Work," an exhibit opening Friday at The Empty Space.

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BY STEFANI DIAS Californian assistant lifestyles editor sdias@bakersfield.com

Situated in a theater known for edgy fare, the Empty Space Gallery must step up its art game with big themes. It starts the year with "Whistle While You Work," a group show centered around the classic Snow White tale.

Gallery curator Jesus Fidel said the inspiration for the show came after the successful "Wizard of Oz"-themed exhibit last year.

Related Info

'Whistle While You Work'

When: reception 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Empty Space, 706 Oak St.

Admission: Free

Information: 327-7529 or esonline.org

"During the production of last year's group show 'Yellow Brick Road,' I had so much fun that I wanted to do another storybook-themed show," Fidel wrote in a email. "Originally I was leaning more toward Sleeping Beauty, but while coming up with ideas and speaking to some local artists, the majority seemed more interested in Snow White."

Along with taking part in the show, Fidel selected 12 other artists and worked with them to assign a character. Subjects include the princess herself, the evil queen and her beggar woman counterpart as well as the magic mirror and Snow's mining companions, which will have a uniform look.

"For all of the seven dwarfs, I had the artists create them on 11-by-14 vertical canvases. For (my piece) 'Bashful,' he is crouching in a garden flirting and batting his eyes at a group of butterflies that seem to be interested in him."

Some of the work takes a cue from Disney's 1937 film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" -- with a few twists.

"Jessica McEuen's 'Doc' looks as though it was directly inspired by Disney, same shapes, facial expressions, colors and glasses, except she turned him into a steam punk.

"The most interesting piece that has Disney inspiration is Christina Sweet's 'Happy.' She painted Otis Harlan, the man that was Walt Disney's original inspiration for 'Happy.'"

Fidel said another standout piece in the show is the queen's opinionated mirror, painted by Josiah Lorsung.

"It turned out really neat. He created his piece as the actual mirror on the wall. It's an oval shape with the reflection of the character behind shattered glass -- the glass really isn't shattered, it was all detail of his painting -- and it sits in an ornate mirror frame."

Other artists in the show are Susan Roussel; Christopher O'Brien and Shelley Juhl O'Brien, the husband and wife team who depicted the Evil Queen; Shane Bryant; Jorge Guillen; Brynia Harris-Czubko; Jason Stewart; Samantha Garrett; and Michelle Guerrero, the theater's marketing director, who painted both Grumpy and Sleepy.

The show opens Friday with a reception from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. You'll only have two weeks to see the exhibit, which will close when the theater's season opener, "The Book of Andy," does on Jan. 18.

"For 2014, I decided to sync all of my gallery shows with the theater shows, rather than the month-to-month schedule that we have always used. I'm just testing this system out this year to see if things run a bit smoother."

The next gallery show will be even more ambitious, a partnership with the artists of The Foundry, whose gallery closed in December. Fidel will work with fellow artist and friend Sweet, who owned the downtown gallery, for the third offering of the popular "Art Imitates Art." The exhibit will be displayed in two parts (each with its own reception), the first running Jan. 24 to Feb. 8 and the second Feb. 21 to March 8.

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