Daniel Stern-Figuratively speaking

The Malibu resident’s new bronze work is making waves.

By Kim Devore / The Malibu Times

He may be best known for his unforgettable roles in the hit movies “Home Alone” and “City Slickers,” but actor and Malibu resident Daniel Stern is just as passionate about working off screen as a sculptor.

Stern is quick to point out that his hobby is nothing new. It goes back to his toddler days when he played in the mud and first discovered a potter’s wheel. “I’ve always loved that tactile sense and getting my hands dirty,” he said. “In that regard, I haven’t progressed from my four-year-old self.”

His love of sculpting may not have changed but his materials have. Instead of Play-Doh, he’s fashioning impressive works in bronze.

Stern’s pieces take many shapes, but he is especially fond of the human form. His figurative bronze sculptures capture expression, movement and moments in time. “I am a story teller at heart and my sculptural work allows me to give a literal and visceral dimension to my characters,” Stern explained. “Much like taking a still frame from a film, the work communicates freeing, fleeting or reflexive moments from my character’s varied narratives.”

Bronze is turning out to be the perfect material to capture his vision. “It’s so strong. It can hold poses that are completely unbalanced, even someone standing on just one toe.”

One piece may capture a girl caught in a windstorm, her clothes and muffler flapping in the breeze. “Reach for It” shows a woman twisting her limbs to the extreme. “Angel of Repose” depicts a balding, middle-aged man snoozing on a lawn chair with a book on his lap.

Much of Stern’s work has graced the Malibu home he shares with wife Laure Stern and their college-age children. During a visit several years ago, a life-size papier-mâché sculpture did a handstand in the living room; various large pieces were stacked in his workspace in the garage. But he’s moved from home display to galleries-some of his sculptures (he works only with bronze now) were displayed at a local gallery last year-and he’s moved his workspace to a studio in Culver City.

His newest work is on display in another beachside city-San Diego.

It’s part of San Diego’s public art exhibition called “Urban Trees.” The program features life-sized sculptures artfully placed along the pedestrian promenade bordering San Diego Bay.

Stern received a public art commission for his bronze sculpture called “Handstand” (which looks similar to the one he had in his living room). It’s super-sized and as the name suggests, shows a man standing on one hand. It’s a moment frozen in time and leaves the viewer wondering whether the subject will take a tumble or land gracefully back on his feet.

Daniel and Laure both have a long history of community service. That’s just another reason why he loves the whole idea of public art. “It’s a perfect fit for me and the whole public service aspect is very satisfying,” he said.

Family life kept Stern involved in community activities, especially those relating to children. He coached sports teams, cofounded the Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu Teen Center, which serves more than 1,200 young people every year.

Earlier this year, President Obama presented the Sterns with the President’s Volunteer Service Award. “My success as an actor has afforded me the unique opportunity to give back to my community, putting my vision of creating a strong and sensitive society into practice,” Stern said of his volunteerism.

Now that his children are grown, Stern has more time to focus on his art. “I rediscovered my love of this most tactile experience,” he explained. “It gives me sanity, expression, problems to solve, surprises, risk-taking opportunities, consistency, purpose and a chance to lose myself by immersing myself in art.”

Stern continues to be busy with film and television work, but is trying to carve out more time for sculpting. At the top of his wish list is a community installation in Malibu or perhaps a piece specially designed for a public library. Proposals will soon be in the works so don’t be surprised if you come across a larger-than-life bronze figure peering out at you at the Civic Center. Rest assured, Daniel Stern’s four-year-old self is hard at work and he knows how to dream big.

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