Art faculty ‘Converge’ at Bakersfield Museum of Art

Jesse Sugarmann, CSUB's new associate professor of digital arts and new genres, poses with his series "Silver Anniversary" at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.
Production still, Silver Anniversary, 2011, Jesse Sugarmann
Bakersfield Museum of Art curator Vikki Cruz demonstrates an interactive sculpture by Joyce Kohl, chair of the CSUB art department.
An interactive piece by CSUB art professor Margaret Nowling at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

If you have ever seen a piece of artwork produced by someone who attended college in Bakersfield, there’s a good chance that artist was influenced by an art professor at California State University, Bakersfield or Bakersfield College.

Now the faculty from both campuses are coming together to show their selected works in “Convergence,” an exhibit that opens at the Bakersfield Museum of Art on Thursday, Sept. 15.

One of those faculty members is Jesse Sugarmann, who is new to CSUB this year. He recently moved to Bakersfield from Eugene, Ore., where he was teaching in the digital arts and cinema studies departments at University of Oregon. As assistant professor of digital arts and new genres at CSUB, Sugarmann is bringing new technology to the art department in the form of digital video, photography, and illustration.

Last week he hung three TV screens on the wall at the Bakersfield Museum of Art to showcase his series, “Silver Anniversary.” The screens display three videos of white minivans “colliding” in various angles.

“I think of them as accidents,” Sugarmann said. “If you think about it, a car accident is a sculptural problem. A car accident is a car occupying the wrong space. So these are spatially absurd car accidents.”

Get him talking, and he’ll take the concept of his minivans even deeper. For one, he finds minivans fascinating as a symbol of the American family. He also sees the influence of the U.S. Space Shuttle on the design of the first minivan – the Ford Aerostar – right down to the white body and black nose. And (this is really deep) he will never forget one fellow artist’s description of the U.S. space program as being a quest to find God.

“So I began thinking that the minivan is a spaceship for the family unit to go out and find God,” Sugarmann said.

He says his depictions of minivans in “Silver Anniversary” are monuments to the members of the Challenger team who perished 25 years ago when the space shuttle exploded just after launch.

Other CSUB faculty and adjuncts showing a range of artwork in the “Convergence” exhibit are: Joyce Kohl, Joey Kotting, Margaret Nowling, Claire Putney, David Laughing Horse Robinson, Dan Slayton, and Sarah Vanderlip.

An opening night reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at the Bakersfield Museum of Art, 1930 R St. Admission is free for museum members and $10 for others. Memberships are $35 for individuals, $20 for students and seniors, and $60 for families. The exhibit runs through Nov. 20. For hours, admission, and more information, call 661-323-7219 or visit

— Jennifer Baldwin, CSUB Public Affairs Coordinator