The thing about life-changing experiences is that you never know when they’re going to happen. For sculptor Lawrence Noble, it came in a darkened theater watching an advance screening of The Empire Strikes Back, seated next to his longtime friend and fellow artist John Alvin. And it happened because of a major and risky gamble by George Lucas.
Yoda was going to be the heart and soul of Empire. But could a puppet carry that large a burden? With the creation of creature master Stuart Freeborn and the incredible puppetry and voice of Frank Oz, Yoda not only worked but was magical!
Speed forward nearly 34 years, and the iconic Yoda statue that graces a fountain at Lucasfilm’s headquarters at San Francisco’s Presidio, as well as three other monumental bronzes created by Noble, has brought him, George Lucas and the late landscape architect on the project, Lawrence Halprin, the prestigious Henry Hering Memorial Medal for Art and Architecture for 2014, awarded by the National Sculptural Society, founded in New York in 1893. The award is given for outstanding collaboration between owner, architect, and sculptor in the distinguished use of sculpture in an architectural project.
For a talented artist as well as a diehard Star Wars fan, the award couldn’t be more gratifying for Noble, who is currently San Francisco Academy of Art University’s Sculpture Chair. Noble’s father was a fan of science fiction and fantasy, and the first time Lawrence saw Star Wars it blew him away. “It hit me on so many levels — certainly including the visual one.”