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Wilma Langhamer exhibit at Brownsville Museum
McALLEN — By just looking at Wilma Langhamer’s paintings, one might not know the emotions or stories that go with the artwork. What you see is the bright colors, doves, castles, trees, hearts, keys and much more. But in a guided tour with the artist, you get to experience her art in a whole new light, as she opens your eyes to the world that surrounds her art – peace, love, joy, freedom, growth, and her vision for humanity.
Langhamer’s life experiences have been put onto canvas. As her life changes, so does her art.
At 15, while living in south Germany, she bought her first set of oil colors. She expressed her love of art with her mother, who, after living through two wars and an economic depression, did not want her daughter to be a “starving artist.”
Not wanting to upset her mother, Langhamer pursued a degree in nursing and worked in that capacity for about two years. It was 1974 when she decided to make painting her career.
Starting with paintings influenced by the sites in Venice, and other places she had visited, it didn’t take long before her work was first exhibited in Stuttgart and Munich, Germany.
Castles, France and the medieval period influenced most of her early art.
During this time, Langhamer met Carl Mohner, an internationally known movie star and artist, who named her unique style as “Romantic Realism.” She keeps with that style today.
Langhamer was commissioned by BMW soon after, drawing 10 vintage cars and motorcycles for the company’s magazines, and a Rosenthal Collector’s Plate.
When not acting, Mohner, born in Vienna, Austria in 1921, was also painting. His first film role was in 1951 in Vagabunden der Liebe. He went on to star in “The Last Bridge,” “Rififi,” “Sink the Bismark,” “Cleopatra,” and “The Kitchen,” among others. Mohner began painting professionally in Italy in 1961.
Mohner had exhibits starting in 1962 in Rome. He went on to have exhibits in Stuttgart and Munich, Germany, Vienna and Graz, Austria, Belgrade, Yugoslavia and Milan, Italy.
When searching for a place to call home, and wanting a warmer climate, the couple made a stop in Brownsville and fell in love with the area. They were married in Mission in 1978 and moved out to the country in the Mission-Sharyland area.
In 1979, they established Orange Hill Studio in Mission and Mohner began promoting his wife’s art. Mohner also had his first U.S. solo exhibition at McAllen International Museum during the same year.
This summer, the couple’s work is being displayed at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, 660 E. Ringgold St. Their exhibit, “Art, the bond between us” is on display until Sept. 5. Langhamer’s work will also be featured at the Annual Beach Combers Fine Art Show at the SPI Convention Center on July 23-24.
Langhamer’s art graced the cover of Reader’s Digest a number of times between 1983 and 1987. One Reader’s Digest cover in 1983 featured her “Rose Balloon” and was distributed throughout the world. Other covers were distributed in Germany and Japan. Another international cover for Reader’s Digest was distributed in 1987.
During this time, Langhamer became involved with humanity efforts. At least two of her peace artworks – art with doves, the world, and hands – were auctioned for the Carter Center’s humanitarian efforts. One painting was auctioned for over $16,000.
In 1984, her art was featured on a UNICEF note card.
Langhamer has been commissioned by several people; most notable is the White House during President Ronald Regan’s tenure and Neiman Marcus.
In 1983, she painted a Christmas tree for each state for the National Christmas Pageant of Peace at the White House. She also did paintings on two wooden eggs in 1984 and 1985 for the White House that are now displayed at the Smithsonian Institute.
In 1984, she created a Christmas Book Cover that featured a “Holly Balloon” with Rudolph and Santa for Neiman Marcus. She also did nine note cards for the company.
Langhamer’s art began to change when her husband grew ill and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1988. Her artwork began to portray love with hearts and trees. The couple also moved to McAllen during this time.
When her mother became ill, she brought her into the paintings. She painted a piece that reminded her of her mother, with a figure of a woman with auburn hair with a heart growing behind her.
She said love is the most important thing.
“If we have love in our heart it grows,” she said, adding that is how she viewed her mother.
Mohner went without painting for about three years. After being asked by many to paint, he began painting again in 1990. Langhamer took a step back to allow her husband to take stage at that time.
Mohner produced art influenced by his life and with things going on around him.
In 1991, he created a series of paintings inspired by the Kuwait conflict, the Desert Storm Series.
A piece currently on display at Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, shows a man throwing down his crutches in one corner and the same man taking up a hula hoop in the other, that Langhamer said is an expression of himself and his illness.
Langhamer pointed out the three birds that are in most of Mohner’s later pieces. She said these were his spirits. One painting, titled “I am Falling,” was painted the night before Mohner fell with the painting in his hands.
Mohner won several art awards during the ‘90s and his art is in numerous private collections, like The White House Collection, Smithsonian, and Graphische Sammlung Albertina in Vienna.
Mohner passed away in 2005 at their home in McAllen.
Art Imitates Life
Langhamer continues to paint today. She has kept the peace and love themes throughout most of her paintings, but has recently brought on a new theme – a Key to Life.
Her more recent art features a red key with a dark background.
“God gives us a key,” she said. “We choose how to use it.”
Her paintings have deep meanings that are held in their titles.
The painting “Invitation to Walk” shows a red boot with a white dove above and a black and grey background. She said she did the painting to invite peace in her walk.
She did a painting for a black and white exhibit. Her painting is white with a bold black stripe in the middle. What makes it stand out though is the red umbrella in the center. She said she could not do a plain black and white painting because life has color; it isn’t all black and white.
Langhamer likes keeping with the themes that touch her, that she feels a connection with. She said she can’t give a value to her art, or say how many hours she spends on one piece, because for her, it is a labor of love.
“I never count the hours,” she said.
Langhamer’s paintings are real and she projects, as she says, the things the world most needs today: peace and love. She is celebrating the gift God gave her and says she has been able to live this dream since the ‘70s. Once wanting to study fine art, she is self-taught and never took a professional class.
Everything she paints has some meaning to her. The dove is for peace, the trees are for growth, the key is a gift given to us, musical instruments are for the joy in life, and women are flowers that grow to reach their full potential.
“I think people can feel if an artist is honest. These paintings come from my heart,” she said of her love-themed paintings. “I feel love is most important in life and I had to express it on canvas. I had to do these paintings.”
A humble and modest artist, she never portrays any anger in her art.
“I wouldn’t be where I am at without Carl,” she said of her successes.
For an online view of Langhamer’s art, visit www. wilmalanghamer.com.
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