The year is 1967 and you’re walking down the Drag, The Beatles’ recently-released Magical Mystery Tour LP in hand. That’s when you spot the star Longhorn quarterback with his all-star girlfriend, a blonde sporting a mega-watt smile and clay-covered overalls named Farrah Fawcett.
It’ll be nearly another ten years before a pin-up poster of the Corpus Christi native in a bright red swimsuit will sell over 12 million copies and she’ll become the lead in the iconic television series Charlie’s Angels. But before her Hollywood stardom, Fawcett spent a brief three years as an art major at the University of Texas, studying extensively with her mentor and famous American sculptor, Charles Umlauf.
To honor Fawcett’s lesser-known artistic side, the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum will host the exhibit, “Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett,” until August 20. The exhibit features sculptures done by both Fawcett and Umlauf.
Fawcett and Umlauf’s sculptures fill the window-lined museum, which sits almost propped above the sculpture garden. UMLAUF’s head curator Katie Edwards, MA ’94, PhD ’06, says she placed similar pieces by Fawcett and Umlauf next to each other so that visitors can grasp the extent of Fawcett’s skills.
Edwards came upon Fawcett’s sculpture talents three years ago while digging through archives at the Blanton Museum of Art, where Fawcett’s extensive art collection is held. She says she immediately knew she had to do an exhibit.
“It’s one thing to use Farrah because she’s famous,” Edwards says. “It’s another thing to go, ‘Oh, she’s really good,’ and have a chance to rewrite history by showing what a great artist she was.”
Since then, Edwards has interviewed around a dozen people who knew Fawcett, who died in 2009 after a three-year battle with cancer. Edwards soon realized that not much had been done to honor what some friends called her true passion.
“The first thing people who went to school with her say is how beautiful she was. No one can get away from that. People literally lined up to carry her books to class,” Edwards says. “Then they say she was the best student in class—the best drawer and sculptor.”
Many of the pieces on display are early works from the 1970s, completed during her first couple of years after leaving UT. Edwards says the collection thins after that period, likely due to her demanding Hollywood career.
Many of Fawcett’s works on display are of her loved ones, which Edwards says is probably because the actress liked to give her work as presents. Some of the more notable pieces include “Head of Diane,” a bronze sculpture of her sister’s head, and “Portrait of a Young Man,” a drawing of her nephew, Jefry Curtis Riggs. The exhibit is set up to highlight her three-dimensional sculptures, which Edwards says is the medium she excelled in. Another surprising theme to Fawcett’s art, Edwards points out, is religion.
“I think it has to do with her Catholic upbringing, but also with a really deep connection to pathos and to emotionally anguishing moments,” Edwards says. “I think she lived there.”
Much of Fawcett’s career as an artist is still a mystery. Edwards says that part of why the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum wanted to take on this project was to start uncovering the stories behind her art. During the exhibit’s run, Edwards says she they’ll do this by reading over documents Fawcett left concerning her art. She also notes that the artwork itself can be just as revealing.
“The most important thing is that objects always tell you a story,” Edwards says. “People’s memories are fallible, but objects are there forever. You just have to know how to read them.”
Photos from top:
Charles Umlauf and Farrah Fawcett. Courtesy of UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum.
Charles Umlauf’s bronze sculpture “Head of Farrah Fawcett” done in 1976. Courtesy of UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum.
Farrah Fawcett’s bronze sculpture “Head of Diane” at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum. Photo by Kat Sampson.
What a great article and interview! I'm so grateful to Veronica Roberts and the ...
Great show! Take the time to watch "The Recarcassing Ceremony"--hysterical and p...
Cary Michael Cox:
Wow - what a great career! Always nice to see our faculty get the recognition th...
This exhibition is FABULOUS! Bravo to the Blanton Museum of Art on an excellent...
"I want people to go back into the world and be more engaged with it." Loved thi...