Academy Awards spotlight famous Oscar sculpture each year

Academy Awards spotlight famous Oscar sculpture each year
By Carleton Varney

Sunday is Oscar time again, and Oscar Night comes just once a year — sort of like Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day.

For the past few years, Oscar has arrived between Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, so between the red and the green, we find the gold, as in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' famous golden sculpture. Oscar is 13 1/2 inches tall and weighs 8 1/2 pounds. When first-time recipients collect theirs on stage, they are frequently surprised by Oscar's weight. He has held on to that perfect 81/2 pounds since he was created by his designer, Cedric Gibbons, in 1939.

Oscar, the sculpture, depicts a knight on a five-spoke film reel holding a sword. In designing the Oscar, Gibbons used the reel to represent the work of actors, writers, directors, producers and technicians — all the categories in the awards presentations.

The original construction featured gold-plated solid bronze, but today each Oscar is made of Britannia alloy covered with gold plating on a black metal base. And did you know that during World War II, reflecting the priorities of the times, Oscar was made of painted plaster?

As far as the name goes, even today historians aren't exactly sure why the Oscar is named "Oscar."

I have been fascinated by the Oscar scene since I was a child. I always enjoyed finding out who received the awards in the different categories, watching winners such as Elizabeth Taylor, who earned her first Oscar for Butterfield 8, or Meryl Streep, who won her first for Kramer vs. Kramer. Will Streep win again this year for Julie and Julia? We shall see if she sweeps off again with another sculpture — and sculpture is exactly what an Oscar is.

My neighbor, the sculptor

If today's sculptors — Henri Moore perhaps, or Modigliani or Manual Carbonell — were asked to create a newer vision of Oscar, imagine the possibilities. As far as possible names, perhaps the new award would honor a Hollywood legend — maybe it would be called a "Cecil" or a "Disney."

I have a neighbor in Palm Beach, an English lady who is a world-renowned sculptress, Deborah Stern. She has been working at her creations since 1974 and has exhibited her works around the world. This charming neighbor of mine is petite and gracious, but her work is strong, flowing and carries about it a rhythm that might be found in a concert — or even in an Oscar-winning movie such as Singing in the Rain!

Stern has exhibited at London's Royal Academy, at Christie's Contemporary Art Gallery and in Palm Beach. These days, she shows her work privately and by appointment in London and Palm Beach. Those folk interested in her works can find information and images on her Web site,

Successful artists nearly always have a love affair with their work, whether it's an operetta, a movie script, a poem, a painting or a sculpture. Stern's sculptures reflects her character in their warmth, strength, honesty and classic beauty.

Sculptures add surprise to interiors

In my design and decorating work, I always use sculpture to add a sense of surprise to a setting. Often, modern sculpture says one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. Frequently, at a cocktail or dinner gathering, I place a contemporary sculpture in the center of a coffee table or the dinner table and ask guests to tell honestly what they see in its free form. I always enjoy hearing their unrehearsed comments.

I love to shop with my clients for sculptures that will reside in their homes. Clients also will frequently bring to a project pieces they've acquired in the past that carry with them many happy memories.


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