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A legendary red swimsuit poster that sold in the millions and her role as a fetching detective on Charlie’s Angels established Farrah Fawcett as a sex symbol of the 1970s—long-limbed, feather-haired, often beaming with a thousand-watt smile. Despite a lengthy and interesting career—particularly her tough, enigmatic turns as different women reacting to the madness of men in the movies Extremities and The Apostle—Fawcett lived under a sort of pin-up shroud until her death from cancer in 2009. It is, therefore, something of a revelation to learn that Fawcett was a passionate lifelong artist and art collector. In “Mentoring a Muse: Charles Umlauf & Farrah Fawcett” at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum in Austin, Texas, some of Fawcett’s sculptures and works on paper are interspersed with art by one of her early teachers—in a surprisingly beguiling and moving exhibition steeped in a mix of melancholy and resilience.

The sturdily successful artist Charles Umlauf spent 40 years as a life drawing and sculpture professor at the University of Texas in Austin. Fawcett began her studies there as a microbiology major in 1965. College life for the Corpus Christi-born beauty had a surreal tinge to it. According to a group of life-long friends assembled at the museum for a discussion event earlier this month, when Fawcett pledged her sorority, the line of men waiting to catch a glimpse of her latticed around buildings. She had a date for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Boys carried her books to class. She was “famous before she was famous.”

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