Last week I had the good fortune to talk to Ernest Daetwyler about his 12-foot-high sculpture made from 24 used oil drilling pipes that will be placed near the Science III building on the Cal State Bakersfield campus.
A slender fellow who sports an unusually narrow but very lengthy goatee, Daetwyler has a pixie-like humor that extends to his artwork, which is shaped like a giant double helix and weighs about 2,500 pounds.
"I call it 'All's Well,' -- it comes from that Shakespeare line, 'all's well that ends well,'" he said. Then with a twinkle in his eye, he indicated it's a play on words given the subject matter and that he really doesn't like Shakespeare.
The internationally known artist, who was born in Switzerland and immigrated to Canada in 1993 has created numerous large-scale sculptures and is noted for his multi-disciplinary approach.
"I always do research online and in libraries before I start a project," he said. "I was astounded that 60 percent of the oil in California is produced here."
About 15 CSUB students were involved in "All's Well," which included leading the artist on a tour of the oilfields and purchasing old pipes as well as assembling and welding the pieces to create the finished artwork.
Daetwyler said he's pleased with the placement of "All's Well."
"The background is perfect and I like the connection to science," he said. "It takes science for the exploration of oil and it takes a lot of science to preserve natural resources."
Art department chair Joyce Kohl expects the sculpture will be ready for public view in about a week, after it has been moved to the site and bolted down on a concrete pad.
Nostalgia at Gaslight
Long before McDonald's and other fast-food places appeared on the scene, locally owned drive-ins were popular teen hangouts, and Bakersfield's main drag was a happening place.
Writer-director Michael Prince takes a look at that era with "Cruisin' Chester," which opens on Friday at the Gaslight Melodrama.
I asked Prince, who's in his early 30s, if he had ever been part of the Friday and Saturday night parade up and down the broad avenue, car radios blaring the latest rock 'n' roll hits. Turns out he was simply a wannabe.
"By the time I was in high school it had kind of died out -- which was too bad, because, growing up, all of us kids were really looking forward to the day we got to cruise Chester," he said. "Maybe this is my way of going down memory lane, only they're someone else's memories. "
His version is set in the 1950s in a place called Andre's (a Bakersfield drive-in by that name still stands at Chester and Brundage, a popular spot where cruisers would turn around to head back north to the thick of the action).
At any rate, in "Cruisin' Chester" this Andre's is the favorite hangout of two groups of teens, The Jets and The Sweet Ladies, whom Prince refers to as "the coolest of cool cats."
As in all melodramas, there's a villain. This time he's an evil businessman who threatens to buy Andre's and change it into a dry cleaners in anticipation of a population surge due to the construction of the Westside Parkway. The kids must find a way to thwart his plans.
"Cruisin' Chester" continues weekends through June 29. The cast includes Jay Stodder, Laurie Alexander, Ivan Goertzen, Austin Whitten and other members of the Gaslight company.
Anyone interested in creative writing will get a taste of what's coming this summer with an introduction to Angie Chau, this year's writer-in-residence at Cal State Bakersfield.
Chau, author of "Quiet as They Come," will give a reading this afternoon in the Dezember Reading Room of the Walter Stiern Library. Then on July 11 she'll teach a one-day creative writing workshop in the library.
Born in Vietnam, she is a graduate of UC Berkeley and has a master's in English from UC Davis. Her book is a series of stories about Vietnamese immigrants living in the San Francisco area.
Although today's presentation is free, cost for Chau's summer course is $150. To register go to www.csub.edu/library/writer2013.shtml and download an application.
'Cycles' at BMOA
A collection of bicycles was the first thing I thought of when I heard that "Cycles" was the theme for this evening's ArtWorks exhibit at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.
But as I learned from BMOA education coordinator Liz Sherwyn, the 17 junior and senior level high school students participating in the show were much more imaginative in defining the term artistically.
For instance, in a statement accompanying her watercolor, titled "Vivaldi," BHS student Gabrielle Jordan explained that her painting portrays the changing of seasons, which can be both gentle and harsh.
Jordan's painting shows four male deer each displaying an impressive set of antlers that, surprisingly, are sprouting flowers and greenery.
"I really enjoy (painting) animals," she said, "but adding a message behind it in a way that the onlooker has to interpret and maybe see something different than I do."
Other students chose to focus on such things as the lunar cycles, the metamorphosis of a human face as it ages, the cycles of home appliances. And, yes, even bicycles.
This evening's exhibit is a graduation of sorts for the students who have been in the BMOA program since January. Each student has at least one piece of art that was created for this exhibition and some have multiple works so there will be about 25 pieces in all.
Sherwyn said participation in ArtWorks is free but not everyone qualifies; of the 30 who applied this year, only 17 were accepted.
"We look for students who really have a passion for art," she said. "There is a fairly rigorous application process, which involves portfolio presentation, essay, letters of recommendation and an interview."
The program is funded by grants from Chevron, Stantec and the Jim Burke Education Foundation as well as contributions from several local residents so there is no cost for the students.
"And that's good," Sherwyn said, "because there are some kids who can barely pay for the gas to get here."
ArtWorks is a semester-long program that began in 2008. It consists of eight meetings from January through May. Its purpose is to focus on developing and enhancing artistic skills while providing a broad spectrum of hands-on visual arts enrichment activities. A day trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and lunch at a nearby restaurant is included in the instruction.
"It's been exciting for me to see them taking in the art," said Sherwyn, who has been involved in education activities at BMOA for about seven years.
Once or twice during the semester, out-of-town artists and local working artists are brought in to give students different perspectives on the field and to talk about opportunities for an art-related career. The students' artwork will be on display in a space behind the wall of the main gallery through June 9.
Applications for the 2014 ArtWorks program will be available in August.
Camille Gavin's "Arts Alive" column appears on Thursday. Write to her via email at email@example.com.