2015-03-05 / Arts & Entertainment News

‘Renaissance man’ still creative after all these years

BY AMY WOODS
Special to Florida Weekly


HOLOFCENER HOLOFCENER A West Palm Beach artist whose famous bas relief, Faces of Olivier, depicts 28 starring roles in the English actor’s charismatic career, has taken on a much-broader bronze titled Faces of Golf.

Lawrence Holofcener has sculpted 105 of the world’s greatest golfers in four separate bas reliefs spanning two centuries. The 89-year-old embarked on the endeavor six months ago.

“When I was looking at their photos, I noticed they were all smiling sort of plastically,” Mr. Holofcener said of the players’ professional headshots. “I said, ‘I’ve got to make them look human’.”

He has succeeded, putting that boyish grin on Phil Mickelson, a swaggerinduced smile on Greg Norman and the teeth-bearing sparkle on Tiger Woods. Norman, Woods and six other pros who appear in Faces of Golf also live in the area. They include Ernie Els, Raymond Floyd, Rory McIlroy, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Nick Price.


In the upper-left corner of the bas relief appears a hat-wearing Mary, Queen of Scots, the first female golfer. 
COURTESY PHOTO In the upper-left corner of the bas relief appears a hat-wearing Mary, Queen of Scots, the first female golfer. COURTESY PHOTO “My criteria were that they won two majors, but I also wanted to include women, and I wanted it to have an international flavor,” Mr. Holofcener said.

He consulted with officials at the USGA, researched books at the library and surfed the Internet. When word got out about what he was doing, golf types started calling. He also put in his two cents.

“I played pretty much all the time when I wasn’t playing tennis,” Mr. Holofcener said. “I have long been a fan of professional golf and felt inspired to celebrate the careers of those great men and women I have followed and their legendary predecessors.”

Each of the four bas reliefs represents a period in history: 1820 to 1899; 1900 to 1920; 1921 to 1951; and 1952 to 1990. In the upper-left corner of the 19th-century bas relief appears a hat-wearing Mary, Queen of Scots, the first female golfer, who actually lived in the 16th century.

“She played, all right,” Mr. Holofcener said of the Scottish monarch known as the mother of the sport 428 years after her beheading. “Scotland is, after all, the home of golf.”

The piece will end up at the British Golf Museum in Saint Andrews in time for The Open Championship in July.

The eccentric husband, father and grandfather who repeatedly has reinvented himself in an effort “to have fun” should make another bas relief titled Faces of Holofcener. The songwriterturned playwright-turned-actor first made a name for himself in 1947, when he and college buddy Jerry Bock joined producer Max Liebman’s creative crew on the television show “Your Show of Shows.” The pair penned lyrics for Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner.

In 1968, Mr. Holofcener wrote the play “Before You Go,” a Broadway comedy that led to an acting career in such hits as “Hello, Dolly!,” with Carol Channing and Ginger Rogers. The sniff of stardom made his studies at the University of Maryland a thing of the past.

“I was going to go back, but I had a job,” the Baltimore native said. “I had no idea what I wanted to be, but I wanted to have fun.”

Had Mr. Holofcener not taken a job with the Charleston Light Opera Guild in the summer of 1978, he never would have found his next muse — sculpting. The story goes like this: He walked into the Gibbes Museum of Art and asked a woman at the desk where he could buy clay and tools. She answered by offering him a job as a teacher. He accepted.

“It was an amateur company, and we practiced nights and weekends for three months for four performances,” Mr. Holofcener said of his stint as Professor Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.” “I had a lot of time.”

The class made busts “because that’s the only thing I thought I could do,” he said. Mr. Holofcener went on to create not only the Laurence Olivier bas relief that hangs in the Chichester Festival Theatre in West Sussex, England, but also Allies, a bronze of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt sitting on a bench. The muchphotographed original resides on Bond Street in London, and a casting of it graces the garden at The Society of the Four Arts on Palm Beach. Another casting of the life-size sculpture sold in 2012 for $650,000 — a personal best.

“I don’t think it can be taught,” he said of his artistic acumen. “How do you become a fine tennis player or a fine golfer? You can read books, but basically, it is your love of the activity or passion for it that you practice, practice, practice.”

Wife Julia sums it up better.

“He’s all right-brain,” Mrs. Holofcener says. “The man is just a true Renaissance man.” ¦

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