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By Macy Jenkins

DAVIS (CBS13) — A one-of-a-kind art exhibition at UC Davis is gearing up for its grand opening. Every piece by renowned Sacramento artist Wayne Thiebaud.

“Wayne Thiebaud is one our own, and that is what makes this project so exciting for us,” said Rachel Teagle, founding director of the Manetti Shrem Museum.

Thiebaud’s work is scattered from coast to coast in private collections and museums. Starting Tuesday, his pieces will be on display at the Manetti Shrem Museum in Davis and open to the public for free.

An American icon and painter Thiebaud burst into the art world in the late 1950s, just before the pop art movement took off. Many of his pieces have sold for millions over the years. He spent two decades as a professor at UC Davis.

“People always said ‘Wayne Thiebaud taught me how to see,’” Teagle said.

Inspired by simple everyday objects, Thiebaud’s work illustrates desserts from pies to lollipops to cakes.

“That’s a tremendous gift to be able to see the beauty that’s around us all the time,” Teagle said.

It took Teagle’s whole museum team of 20 people nearly three years to get all 60 pieces to the exhibit. Many of them have never been in the same room until now.

“I will admit that when we started opening the crates, I teared up because the paintings are so much more beautiful than I expected them to be,” Teagle said.

But behind every stroke, is a story.

“It sold to a bartender who worked down the block,” Teagle recounted, about Thiebaud’s “Deviled Eggs.” “And he used all change out of the register at the end of the bar.”

“[‘Nine Candy Apples’] broke the all-time sales record for Wayne Thiebaud’s career,” Teagle explained.

And “Pancakes,” was just a sample for a supportive colleague in 1961.

“Candy Counter” and “Bakery Counter” were both born in 1962.

“They’re paintings that were made together and intended to be together,” Teagle said.

And like long-lost twins, they’re back together once again for the first time in more than 50 years.

All 60 pieces were created between 1958 and 1968, Thiebaud’s formative years. The 97-year-old lives in Sacramento and with an undying passion to create, still goes into the studio every day.

“He is an artist who is very committed to education and what it means to make art accessible to everyone,” Teagle said.

The exhibit opens on on Tuesday with a public reception on Thursday. And the staff hopes Thiebaud makes a guest appearance.

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