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To celebrate the 93rd Oscars, the Academy invited seven international artists to interpret the Oscar statuette.
To inspire them, the artists were asked: What do movies mean to you?
Their resulting designs reveal that cinema can imbue a wide range of visually-represented meaning: everything from color, connection, movement, vision—to a healthy dose of the unexpected.
Now let's get to the artists, and the art:
Coker connects most to movies that reflect the work of Black artists depicting the Black experience.
“That’s why I wanted to make the Oscar statuette Black—to honor all the Black actors, writers, directors who have really done a great job telling our stories,” he says. “I wanted this artwork to be visually striking and colorful because that’s what I feel when I watch movies that have people that look like me. This representation transcends past film and into our lives.”
Being a visual artist affects the way he watches movies—sometimes to his detriment: “As an artist, I sometimes overanalyze a scene or think, ‘How did they do that?’ and it distracts me from paying attention to what’s actually happening. That’s something I’m trying to work on.”
But he delights in color and composition, patterns and symbolism. “Colors tell a story, and are probably one of the most important things I pay attention to when I watch movies,” he says. “I also pay attention to how the composition can give you insight on what a person is feeling.”
Related: Oscar Artist Spotlight—Temi Coker's Movie Picks
For Stockholm-born and Barcelona-based illustrator Petra Eriksson, movies are an escape, an inspiration and a vehicle for making sense of herself and the world.
“It’s a tool to understand other situations differently, or even understand my own situation better by getting a new perspective or recognizing something I’ve been through in someone else’s story,” she says. “I feel like it helps me open up new connections between ideas and emotions, which definitely affects me when I create my own artworks.”
Bright colors and bold visuals play starring roles in her work and in the films she loves. She’s also drawn to characters who are “distinct and maybe a little bit out of the ordinary.”
“I love being absorbed by a well-acted character and experiencing the world of colors, sounds and emotions that make up their life.”
Petra brings Oscar to this place in her design, swept up in color and movement.
“I wanted to create the feeling of being in a state where you’re surrounded by notes of another world,” she says, “whether that’s a photo so vivid you can imagine the scent of the scenery or a song that brings out a certain emotion in you by reminding you of a forgotten memory.”
Related: Oscar Artist Spotlight—Petra Eriksson's Movie Picks
MAGNUS VOLL MATHIASSEN
Known professionally as MVM, Norwegian graphic designer and illustrator Magnus Voll Mathiassen founded his namesake studio in 2009, through which he’s worked with a slew of international brands, from Adidas and Microsoft to Sephora and Sony. His love of portraiture extends to his deep appreciation of movies and the portraits they paint of characters and places.
“I see movies and movie fans as an interconnected being,” he says. “This ecosystem of you and me and the film industry—a complex patchwork—is connected on all levels … an organism where magic flows through its system.”
He interprets the Oscar statuette as he would a portrait of a person, with bold colors tracing and illuminating its silhouette.
Watching movies as an artist means he often finds himself excited about photography and composition, though he tries to avoid pointing these things out to his viewing companions during the film.
Lately, he’s been “chasing a specific nostalgia” and watching movies from the 1970s and ’80s (as his list of favorites reflects). “I have been outspoken about wanting newness in art, not looking back at the bygone era,” he says. “And here I am doing just that and thoroughly enjoying myself and thinking everything was cooler before.”
Related: Oscar Artist Spotlight—Magnus Voll Mathiassen's Movie Picks
Michelle Robinson, who creates art as Mister Michelle, embraces texture, color and geometric structures in her work.
She envisioned Oscar in an ornate theater reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age—“a renowned figure centered proudly as the heart and soul within this architectural body”—evoking this feeling with colorful lines surrounding the statuette and scalloped shapes behind it. Her love of gold leaf suits Oscar perfectly.
It was in the storied film palaces of the 1920s and ’30, “behind towering velvet curtains and beneath elaborately decorated walls and ceilings, that curious minds first began to fall in love with movies,” she says.
As an artist and as a film fan, she delights in discovery, evolution and change.
“My style is continually transforming,” she says, “and I find great pleasure in welcoming this creative metamorphosis.”
Related: Oscar Artist Spotlight—Mister Michelle's Movie Picks
An international artist and illustrator who hails from Sydney, Australia, Karan Singh has lived and worked in Tokyo, Amsterdam, New York, Melbourne and Malmö, Sweden. His creations, which combine optical art and mid-century graphic design paired with hypnotic patterns and vibrant colors, have come to life in sculpture, prints, puzzles, video, animation and clothing.
His take on the Oscar statuette was inspired by ideas of harmony and unity in a time of pandemic isolation. “Although it’s been a tough year for us all to be together, film has helped entertain, distract, console and inspire,” he says. To reflect the diversity of talents it takes to make a film, he envelops Oscar in shapes and colors.
Karan can’t help but watch films as an artist. Because his own work causes him to make creative decisions so thoughtfully, he finds himself isolating components of the movies he watches to look for meaning and inspiration in the artistic choices.
“From the photography, to wardrobe, to the lighting, to the editing and beyond, I enjoy trying to understand how and why they’ve made the decisions they have and what that means for the story,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s always a joy to watch other artists work, if not to inspire than to better understand your own work.”
Related: Oscar Artist Spotlight—Karan Singh's Movie Picks
Victoria Villasana studied design in her native Mexico and worked in London’s fashion industry before blending these two loves in her textured, textile-and-graphic images.
Using bright strands of yarn, Victoria embroiders dynamic life into still images, an endeavor that began as a hobby. She’d post her colorful, often socially and politically provocative works on the streets of London, where she became known as an artist and activist.
She’s drawn to vintage photos of icons, which she transforms with vivid stitchery. In one image, the “Man in Black,” Johnny Cash, dons a cacophonously colorful jacket of green, purple, red and blue. In another, Victoria gives Nina Simone splashy orange eyeshadow, dangling fringe earrings and a bold pink-and-blue geometric blouse.
She uses pattern and color to “weave stories that connect us to express the resiliency and creativity of the human spirit.”
She finds a similar connection through film. “Movies are an excellent vehicle to take you into another world and give you an opportunity to put yourself into other people’s shoes,” she says. “Movies create a bridge of communication and make us understand deeper truths about our connection to each other as humans.”
Related: Oscar Artist Spotlight—Victoria Villasana's Movie Picks
Born in China, raised in Portland, Oregon, and based in New York City, Shawna X has been communicating through art since she was a child. A platform-agnostic graphic artist, her vibrant, often whimsical designs have appeared on newspaper and magazine covers, as well as cars, surfboards, murals, room-size installations, sculptures and on digital billboards in Times Square.
“I believe my work is visceral, driven by emotional nuance and the intangible,” she says.
Her connection to film runs deep, as both inspiration and escape. “Sometimes I rewatch my favorite movies just to evoke a feeling, as in this fast-paced world of instant gratification, I go numb,” she says. “I am deeply moved by the complexities of the human experience, though often simple on the surface. The dichotomy translates to the approach I often take in my work, from color to composition.”
She anchors the viewer in her interpretation of Oscar, presenting the statuette bathed in color and backed by a wide-open eye.
“This visual is direct and to the point: We watch movies,” she says. “What we absorb has an effect on our dopamine levels, whether pleasure, excitement or inspiration.” The abstract patterns emerging from the eye and the Oscar in her design reflect that energy and delight.
Related: Oscar Artist Spotlight—Shawna X's Movie Picks
Don't forget: The 2021 Oscars will be held on Sunday, April 25th at 8 pm ET. Watch it live on ABC or go to ABC.com and log in with your TV provider.