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The Oscar Goes To An Orange County Foundry

The Hudson Valley will take center stage during the 88th Academy Awards February 28, a few dozen times. After its statuettes had been in the hands of a Chicago trophy company for the past 33 years, the Academy wanted to return to its 1929 roots, and chose Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry, in Rock Tavern, Orange County, to exclusively create them, starting with this year’s show. Stephanie Minor works at Polich Tallix and explains how it all came to pass.

“The Academy approached us a little over a year ago. Their desire was to return to the roots of the sculpture and have it cast in bronze. Back in the ‘20s it was cast in bronze. Over the years it’s been cast in several different metals and now they want to go back to bronze, which is what we do,” says Minor. “So we started the process by scanning an Oscar from the ‘20s, 1929 I believe. We also scanned one of the modern Oscars and then through 3D modeling, we sort of brought the two different designs together to make the new Oscar.”

The digital Oscars were 3D-printed and molded in wax. Each wax statuette is coated in a ceramic shell that is cured and fired at 1,600°F, melting the wax away and leaving an empty Oscar-shaped form. The 57 statuettes were then cast in liquid bronze at more than 1,800°F, cooled, and sanded to a mirror polish finish. Each then received its 24-karat gold finish. Minor speaks to some of the subtle changes in Oscar this year.

“Some of the features in the face were lost, not lost, but like I said, softened, the collarbones, certain musculature in the back,” says Minor. “When you make the same thing over and over for a really long time, some of those features sort of soften through the process. So we just sort of gave him a little bit of a facelift.”

Those restored features hearken back to George Stanley’s original sculpture. The overall size of the statuette remains the same at 13.5 inches, and Oscar weighs 8.5 pounds. The Polich Tallix Foundry is in the district of Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.

“It’s safe to say that I’ve never been more interested in the Oscars.”

He stopped by for a tour and the chance to hold the Oscar prototype.

“I think what it means is that there’s really nothing we can’t do here in the Hudson Valley. When you look at the range of talent and skill we have here, the manufacturing capability, the artistic know-how, it’s really extraordinary,” says Maloney. “There are any number of foundries around the country, around the world that would have been so honored to have this commission and yet to have it come here is really a tribute to the extraordinary skill of this gentleman beside me and all the people who work here.”

The gentleman beside him is CEO Dick Polich, who says even though his foundry has pieces all over the world for artists and in museums, Polich Tallix has never produced anything with the kind of renown of the Oscar statuette. 

“It means to me that I’m really, I’m tempted to say lucky, but it’s not lucky. I’ve worked my bottom off for a lot of years,” Polich says. “And we are known around the world for the quality and care and dedication we give this business.”

Some of the artists with whom the foundry has worked or is working include Jeff Koons, Joel Shapiro, Frank Stella, and Botero. The foundry also cast a sculpture for Ursula von Rydingsvard outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Oscar winners are a secret even to Polich Tallix. The artisans engraved 218 nameplates, also in different material than years prior. The nameplates and Oscars have been shipped out to the Academy. Again, Minor.

“Myself and my general manager Adam Demchak will be on site to install the nameplates, the winners’ nameplates, on their statues at the Governor’s Ball after the ceremony,”

“So it’s true you don’t know ahead of time,” says Dunne.

No, we have no idea,  no, no , no, no, no no, we have no idea, everyone keeps asking, but no,” says Minor. “We engraved every single nominee, and it was quite a process.”

Meanwhile, the Academy will continue its relationship with Chicago-based R.S. Owens & Company to service existing statuettes and create other awards for the Academy, including plaques for its annual Scientific and Technical Awards.

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