An art exhibit titled “Oildale?” Being shown in a contemporary art gallery in Los Angeles? My initial response was: You’ve got to be kidding.

Now, I don’t mean to ruffle the feathers of any folks who call Oildale home, but let’s face it — it’s a community better known for country music than it is for being a mecca of fine art.

Even Ed Lightner, co-owner of the L2kontemporary Gallery, agrees it’s pretty astounding.

“I mean, we’re talkin’ Oildale here, not L.A. or New York City,” he said. “But the main idea behind the show is really very, very simple, (which is) that what seems to me to be a large number of artists came from North High in the 1970s.”

And Lightner should know, because he’s one of them.

Each of the six artists in the show got their first taste of contemporary art from Bill Ryan, who taught at North High for 38 years. And every one of them went on to study art at Cal State Bakersfield before pursuing graduate degrees elsewhere.

“We’ve all kept in touch, more or less, but we’ve never been able to put a show together until now,” Lightner said. “Everybody thought it would be cool to do.”

 The exhibit opened Saturday at the gallery, which is in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. Ryan was among those who attended.

“I’m very proud of all these guys, and I’m not surprised at how well they’ve done,” Ryan said. “I had a group of outstanding students during those years. They were amazed that someone would come to Oildale and introduce them to Picasso, Franz Kline, Rauchenberg —  and all those people.”

CSUB art professor Ted Kerzie was unable to attend the opening but clearly remembers the six exhibiting artists.

“I knew that whenever I got students from North High, they were well-trained in the basics,” Kerzie said. “And they all were dealing in abstract thought when they came to Cal State — they were already thinking about contemporary art.”

Since then the Oildale artists have gone on to make their own mark in the world of art.

For example, Greg Colson’s artwork is held in such places as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Panza Collection in Switzerland and at MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Los Angeles.

Jeff Colson, Greg’s brother, also has shown at MOCA and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Jill Thayer is a familiar figure in the Bakersfield art community, for her own work as well as the gallery she formerly operated in the Fox Theater building. She currently is completing work for her doctorate at Claremont Graduate College.

“I’m honored to be part of the group and I look at it as my emergence as an artist of the contemporary area of art,” Thayer said. “What I’m exhibiting is one large installation of many pieces that (convey) the past, present and future of my work.”

Deanna Thompson, who was born in Bakersfield and grew up in Oildale, now lives in the high desert area of California. Her paintings feature what she sees in her surroundings — piles of debris, derelict cabins and abandoned objects. Thompson recently had an exhibit in a Tokyo gallery.

Thomas Trivitt, who uses an automotive pin-striping technique and high-gloss enamel for the large canvases he creates, is the sixth member of the group. He recently had a show in Sacramento, and his work has been displayed in the rental gallery at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Don’t expect to see anything that looks even remotely like Oildale when you view the exhibit. It will be up through Aug. 29.

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