There are so many “what if” moments when one takes in Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. Many art-lovers know Charles Umlauf’s work and millions of people know the famous face and feathered tresses of Farrah Fawcett; some may even know that the late Superstar-Goddess had a very early interest in art.
This exhibition is a real eye-opener, reflecting a woman who had the eyes of the world on her for most of her life. The breadth of the exhibition is surprising and in a stroke of brilliance, curator Katie Robinson Edwards has placed the artists’ pieces side by side. The Corpus Christi-born Fawcett began studying with Professor Umlauf at the University of Texas in 1965, which is when she became his muse and he became her mentor. This relationship lasted throughout their lives, as evidenced by their regular correspondence and Ms. Fawcett’s many purchases of Umlauf’s artworks. Charles Umlauf captured the side of his muse that most of us never saw; there isn't even a hint of Farrah’s megawatt smile in his drawings and sculptures. It is a pensive, almost sad version of a human being (albeit a beautiful one), alone in her world. For her part, Farrah showed tremendous skill and depth. Her own muses, beyond the human form itself, seemed to be family members — her portrait-sculptures of her sister Diane really stand out.
As for “what ifs,” one wonders what her life would have been had she continued to turn down the invitations of a Hollywood publicist for her to come to L.A. in the ‘60’s after said publicist saw a photo of Farrah as one of U.T.’s “10 Most Beautiful Students.” Inspiringly, she stayed with her art throughout her life, but given the unrelenting public scrutiny, her efforts to be taken seriously as an actress, and some high-profile (and questionable) relationships, it's likely that Hollywood took a toll on her focus and well-being. What would have happened had she carved out a simpler life as a visual artist in Texas, close to her beloved family and friends? What if she had beaten cancer and been able to attend this exhibition at the Umlauf, which was in the works before she passed in 2009 — what then?
This exhibition runs through August 20, 2017.