At first the two worked together on an image of her. But as the project developed, their thinking widened, and Fawcett set to sculpting Edmier while Edmier was sculpting her.
Despite a few bumps in the road -- their first terra-cotta collaboration exploded in the kiln -- the partnership stretched to two years, on and off, enduring Sept. 11, family crises and the unpredictable nature of Fawcett's acting gigs.
The sculpture of Fawcett was cast in fiberglass, shipped to Italy and copied by craftsmen into marble. The figure of Edmier was cast in bronze in upstate New York. Among the other pieces they made together: multiples of "Shell," a large clamshell made of melted crayons and filled with beach sand from Padre Island, Texas. A handful of the smaller pieces have been exhibited in Europe, but the central dual portrait is going public for the first time.
Though the image of Fawcett is a nude, the supine figure lies in the most demure pose possible, which is not a coincidence. Fawcett wore a bathing suit and a chiffon cover-up for most of the work, and "I know when I was up on the clay, I was very conscious of revealing as little as possible. The intention was not to make it erotic."
The male figure, on the other hand, stands tall and conceals nothing. That posed a challenge for Fawcett, who'd never sculpted male genitals before. Yet the strangest thing about posing nude, said Edmier, was "how normal it all felt."
Along the way, Edmier and Fawcett learned enough about each other that the two of them, both single, can do a fair imitation of a long-married couple. In fact, Edmier said, "we've had a personal relationship." Between them, it is established that he is the morning person, she is the night person. He is inclined to trust his memory; she takes notes, makes sketches, dates Polaroids. He is the one who has worked with unorthodox materials like dental acrylic; she is the one with more experience in clay.
Working with Edmier, Fawcett decided, was "like meeting with a secure director, a Robert Altman, who says, 'What are your ideas?' " And in their working relationship, she added, "we were able to sort of leave my celebrity out of it."
Whether or not the art is worthwhile, audiences and critics will soon have a chance to judge. And the marketplace may as well. Edmier and Fawcett will replicate some of their works in editions of up to 10, and Edmier's dealer, Friedrich Petzel in New York, has already sold three pieces from the "Shell" edition. (Petzel declined to disclose prices.)
"I hope we can just make some of the costs back," said Edmier.
As for the distance now between the star and the fan, things have changed since that day at the toy store.
"If I had to pick people who really knew me, through work, through frustration, through extreme happiness, through extreme creativity -- you know, the whole realm -- I would say: Keith does," said Fawcett. "And he's known me for less time than a lot of people."
Coming soon to LACMA ... Sculptor Keith Edmier and his muse, Farrah Fawcett, make art together.
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