Inspiration behind Chihuly, Kennedy pieces for Palm Springs International Film Awards – Desert Sun

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Move over, Golden Globe and Oscar. The awards that matter most this week are the unique works of art created specifically for Palm Springs International Film Awards honorees.

When Hollywood’s brightest stars hit the red carpet on Thursday, the most sought-after accessories they sported were Dale Chihuly’s “Gilded Emerald Piccolo Venetian with Sunburst Coils,” a green glass piece with golden coils on top, and John Kennedy’s “The Entertainer,” a bronze sculpture inspired by a court jester. Cate Blanchett, Lady Gaga, Gary Oldman, Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Kirk Douglas and Alejandro González Iñárritu are just some of the creatives who have received the awards in the past.

The 2024 honorees include “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Vanguard Award), Emma Stone (Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress), Cillian Murphy (Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actor), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Breakthrough Performance Award), Greta Gerwig (Director of the Year Award), Jeffrey Wright (Career Achievement Award), Carey Mulligan (International Star Award, Actress), Colman Domingo (Spotlight Award, Actor), Danielle Brooks (Spotlight Award, Actress), Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (Chairman’s Award) and Paul Giamatti (Icon Award).

Brendan Fraser poses with the Spotlight Award backstage at the Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala in Palm Springs, Calif., Jan. 5, 2023.

More:Da’Vine Joy Randolph on playing the ‘personification of reality’ in ‘The Holdovers’


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Both awards have been given out at the Palm Springs International Film Awards for several years and look unlike any other prizes presented during Hollywood’s award season. The creators and those closest to them spoke with The Desert Sun to share the inspirations that led to their unique designs.

Chihuly’s ‘Gilded Emerald Piccolo Venetian with Sunburst Coils’

Chihuly’s partnership with the film festival goes back more than a decade, and he has provided a number of intricate glass pieces during that time.

It started with the “Cobalt Feather Piccolo Venetian” in 2009, followed by the “Silvered Crackle Piccolo Venetian with Ruby Coil” in 2010 and 2011, the “Crackle Piccolo Venetian with Scarlet Ribbon” in 2012 and the “Silvered Piccolo Venetian with Carmine Gold Leaves” in 2013 and 2015-2017. For the festival’s 25th anniversary in 2014, Chihuly designed a special “Silvered Piccolo Venetian with Crystalline Leaves” piece. The “Gilded Emerald Piccolo Venetian with Sunburst Coils” has been presented at the festival since 2018.

From left, Lino Tagliapietra, Dale Chihuly, Benjamin Moore and Robbie Miller work on the Venetian glass series in 1993.

At first glance, Chihuly’s green sculpture might look like a blooming cactus from the Coachella Valley, but the design of the award comes from his “Venetians” series, a body of work he began developing in 1988 with Italian glassblower and friend Lino Tagliapietra.

Danielle​ Zarrella, Chihuly Studio communications manager, explained that the artist spent time learning glassblowing at Venini Glass on the island of Murano, and the series is a nod to art deco and Italian design. The “Venetians” features a variety of classical vessels that are adorned with colorful snaky handles, leaves, twisted ribbons and spikes.

Antonio Banderas receives the International Star Award from his friend and actress Salma Hayek during the Film Awards Gala of the 31st annual Palm Springs International Film Festival in Palm Springs, Calif., on January 2, 2020.

Chihuly and his wife, Leslie, lived in Palm Springs for some time, and they were looking for different opportunities to support cultural institutions in the area, Zarrella said. He also happens to be a huge cinephile, which led to a collaboration with the festival.

“Going to the movies and losing myself in the stories and the cinematography has been a lifelong passion for me,” Chihuly said in a statement. “I am thrilled to create these awards for the Palm Springs International Film Festival and to share my work with the artists who are being honored.”

Michelle Yeoh takes a photo backstage with the International Star Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala in Palm Springs, Calif., Jan. 5, 2023.

Each of Chihuly’s awards have been designed specifically for the festival. The artist is typically inspired by nature, which may be why “Gilded Emerald Piccolo Venetian with Sunburst Coils” reminds some of a desert cactus. Zarrella added that he takes into consideration how a piece will be held when designing one for the Film Awards, and that they all need to remain authentic to the “Venetians” series.

Kennedy’s ‘The Entertainer’

Kennedy’s partnership with the Palm Springs International Film Festival dates back to 1997. Silver screen legend Lauren Bacall was one of the first to receive “The Entertainer” as a Lifetime Achievement Award, and when she picked up the 13-pound award, she exclaimed, “It’s beautiful, and it’s heavier than the Oscar.”

Kennedy died in 2004, but his presence is felt at every Film Awards. His daughter, Tara Kennedy, has continued sponsoring the glamorous event as a way to honor her father and his passion.

“He absolutely loved seeing all different people from all around the world holding his award,” she said.

PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 02: (L-R) Zack Gottsagen, winner of the Rising Star Award, and Jamie Foxx attend the 31st Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 02, 2020 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival)

Her father lived in Palm Springs from 1980 until his death. He did many things in his life, from opening London’s first discotheque to helping invent the Micro Cool misting system, but his passion was always art. He partnered with the festival in 1996 to create an award, which Tara said “made sense” because it incorporated the showbiz side of his life and his love for the desert.

She explained that the sculpture was inspired by court jesters from the Middle Ages, aka the “ultimate entertainer.” The figure appears to be balancing on a ball while juggling other balls. It also dons a three-pointed jester hat.

Saoirse Ronan accepts the Desert Palm Award, Actress at the 29th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 in Palm Springs, CA

A life-size sculpture of “The Entertainer” is also often featured on the red carpet at the Film Awards.

Similar to Bacall, Tara said she’s “amazed (by) how heavy it is” and that it’s “a lot bigger than you realize.”

Tara lives in the United Kingdom, so she doesn’t get to attend the Film Awards very often, but she will be able to enjoy the 2024 star-studded event with two of her children.

“(The partnership) has been going for 27 years, and I hope we can keep it going for as long as possible,” she said.

Timothee Chalamet is presented with the Rising Star Award, Actor by 'Call Me by Your Name' co-star Armie Hammer at the 29th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 in Palm Springs, CA

In memory of 20 years since his passing, a tribute to Kennedy’s art will be on display until Jan. 11 at CODA Gallery, located at 73-400 El Paseo, Suite B1, in Palm Desert. Visitors will be able to see his lean sculptured figures, which are symbolic of the Mogok women of Burma, where he lived as a child with his parents. One of his most famous pieces, “Spirit of Audrey,” a sculpture dedicated to Audrey Hepburn that is located at the UNICEF Headquarters in New York City, will also be on display. CODA Gallery has represented Kennedy since the 1990s.

Following the Film Awards, the Palm Springs International Film Festival continues through Jan. 15, screening 180 films from 74 countries.

More:Palm Springs International Film Festival programmers share highlights, movies not to miss

Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic.

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