Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Oscar™® buzzkill

This year we had a bunch of scrap wood and a parent who knew what to do with it.
He jigsawed plywood into freestanding mountain shapes, which we arranged
on stage to create depth. Then we propped flashlights behind some of the shapes
to uplight the letters, cut out of the wonder material, Foam Core®™.
I had my chance.

Picture it: An 8-foot tall Oscar®™ statue, cut from Foam Core™ and made up cleverly in tempera paint. It could have been mine.

It would be coated in dust in my office by now, so tall it would have to lean in one corner to fit.

Stuff I never look at but insist I need would be piled behind the base. Oscar™® would barely survive quarterly calls by my wife to get rid of the damn thing, already.

I wish I had kept one.

All that's left of that magical night* are these sketches.

About 10 larger-than-life Oscar™®s are long gone, fabulous wastes. They were the showcase of the fashion show fundraiser at the school our children attended. I played an art director each year because I couldn't or wouldn't do anything else among the parent/volunteer choices.

The theme for this one 20 years ago — really, 20 years ago?! — was Hollywood. Eventually any fashion show school fundraiser would pick Hollywood for at least one year; it's a law of the universe.

The task, as always, was to turn the small mauve-and-purple, linoleum-floored, laminate-beam arched (because it began as a church) parish hall into something that didn't remind parents they were having an expensive date night in the parish hall.

The foyer did not look at all like this sketch.
Oh well …
Not just the small stage but everything possible had to be disguised — the foyer, the school hallways leading to the classrooms where the silent auction was conducted), the laminate beams, the tables, the sidewalk leading to the parish hall. Everything.

It was a fool's errand, we all knew. But we got our volunteer hours!

These are sketches from the early stage known officially as Wishful Thinking.

It was a full frontal attack on reality, in stubborn defiance of resources, budget (ha!), able volunteers, available time and enthusiasm.

As a result, almost everything changed from these sketches. The ticket booth at the entrance of the hall became some kind of decorated skirt around a card table, for example. The grand entrance became much less grand — no red carpet, no rope and stanchions.

The table centerpieces became something else entirely, I forget what, though I remember that a
Seriously — I proposed three caricatures of Bette Davis taped together for a
centerpiece titled
Three Faces of Eve. Maybe that's why someone else took
over centerpiece duty.
volunteer took them over. I learned early on to let go and not fall in love with any of my ideas, chanting quietly, "I'm getting my volunteer hours, I'm getting my volunteer hours …"

Oscar®™ remained. He didn't get folded down his length as I imagined. We stood him up flat in front of the laminate posts instead.

You might notice from the sketches that I loved Foam Core™. It's a rigid material made from paper laminated to both sides of a sheet of plastic foam; I learned about it when I used to belong to the Art Directors and Artists Club in town.

You can paint on it, cut shapes out of it, hot glue it together into three-dimensional objects. It was the wonder material for art directors of school fundraisers everywhere. I talked the school into buying a wholesale supply of it for a couple of years — 20 sheets, four feet by eight feet, in a great big box.

(After that I felt guilty and the decorations committee made do with large sheets of cardboard that a parent supplied from his job as a construction superintendent. It required more paint to disguise, and we had to paint both sides of whatever we made so the cardboard would flatten to its original shape as it dried. "I'm getting my volunteer hours. I'm getting my volunteer hours …")

After making an Oscar® template and having volunteers cut them out, I painted the statues — no one else wanted to try — with flat tempera paint in weird complements of color to create the illusion of light and shadow and reflection on metal.

I'm going to brag and say they turned out a lot better than I imagined. Of course, I have no evidence to refute me. The fact that I wanted to keep one should say it all.

But someone tossed it all instead. Another group of parents got their volunteer hours throwing everything away. Maybe they sensed the weeks of work that went into all this paint-and-glue camouflage. Or maybe in the early hours of the morning, making many trips to the Dumpsters®™, they sang quietly to themselves, "I'm getting my volunteer hours. I'm getting my volunteer hours …"

Anyway, I heard they were handing out Oscar™®s over the weekend — it seems like they do that every year now — so I wanted to ride their coattails. Gee, I hope The Shawshank Redemption won!

*I'm being flip.

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