A bit of serendipity
KURT KRAUTHAMER shows off the sculpture that was stolen from him in 1973, which he rediscovered last year.
Is anything ever really lost? Or does it just take a detour, go a separate direction, and maybe, just maybe, come back to us when the time is right?
For one answer, ask Kurt Krauthamer. He had all but given up on ever again seeing the wooden sculpture he spent six months carving in 1973. But nearly 40 years later, it came back to him in the most unusual of ways. It's almost enough to make you believe in fate - or at least a bit of serendipity.
"This thing is almost like a child to me, like a lost child," he said, "Now it's at my door saying, 'Dad, I'm home.'"
As an art student at Sonoma State University in the 1970s, Krauthamer had big dreams of becoming a famous sculptor. He even sought an apprenticeship with the noted artist Henry Moore, who is famous for his modern sculptural work. Long hours were spent in the studio carving organic wooden forms or welding bronze works.
"I really thought I was going to be this big, hot shot artist," he laughed.
In 1973, he created an untitled wooden sculpture that took him more than six months to carve. The piece was mounted on a walnut base that Krauthamer spent hours oiling until it gleamed in the light. It was his prized creation, one of the things he was most proud of making.
Around the same time, Krauthamer fell in love. He met the woman who would become his wife, and like any suitor, wanted to do whatever he could to impress her.
"I asked her where she would go if she could go anywhere in the world," Krauthamer said. "She picked the Bahamas, so we packed our bags and headed out for a month."
The young couple enjoyed the trip of a lifetime, falling in love with the warmth, the beach and each other. But when they got home, they walked into a major headache.
"When we got back home, the house had been completely wiped out. My house was empty," Krauthamer said. "Every piece of furniture, every piece of clothing - gone."
Among the myriad missing items, of course, was his sculpture. Four of his sculptures to be exact. That was the hardest loss, Krauthamer said. "I was in college, I didn't own much nice stuff, the most significant stuff was my art," he said. "When I lost it, it was a big loss for me."
Police reports were filed, but Krauthamer held little hope of ever seeing his work again. Over the next few years, he fell away from artistic studies, and went on to become one of the first students at San Francisco State University to earn an MBA in computer sciences. He no longer spent long hours making art in his studio.
"I always loved art, but I kind of gave up making it," he said.
After he sold his computer consulting company in the late '90s, Krauthamer found himself with the means and time to begin pursuing his passions again. He became a board member of the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and underwrote the popular Mix cocktail parties, aimed at getting younger audiences to engage with the museum exhibits.
It seemed the stars were aligning to bring him back to an artistic state of mind, and fate was about to tap him on the shoulder.
Move forward to June 2010, when Krauthamer and his son Collin were walking to Rins Thai Restaurant for lunch. As they passed the Church Mouse Thrift Shop, they stopped to admire a handmade guitar in the front window. Then, just out of the corner of his eye, Krauthamer saw something familiar.
"I turned my head and there it was," he said. Sitting unassumingly in the corner of the window display was his long lost sculpture. "I was kind of in disbelief."
He was so surprised, in fact, that at first he didn't think there was anyway it could actually be his, until he saw his own initials carved into the base. The sculpture was a little worse for wear, having lost its oiled sheen and being flecked with dabs of white paint at some point in its mysterious past. It was a hard experience to comprehend.
"When something is stolen from you, right away you give up hope on ever finding it. ... It's been 38 years, that's a mind-blower," he said.
Krauthamer told the employee at the Church Mouse the story, and the employee said another sculpture had come in with that load of donations. That, too, happened to be one of his stolen wood pieces. Krauthamer bought his prized sculpture from the window for the advertised price of $25. His son shelled out $35 for the other sculpture.
"It was the one thing that you were really upset that you lost, and it came back," Collin Krauthamer told his father.
The experience rekindled Krauthamer's love of creating art. "Finding that piece was some sort of message for me," he said. "After 38 years, I'm starting to do wood work again."
Like any curious person, Krauthamer is interested in hearing the story of how this stolen sculpture followed him from his former residence in Sebastopol in 1973 back to the town he now calls home. He is not looking to prosecute (plus the statute of limitations on a theft in 1973 has long since passed), he's just curious to hear who might have owned it before it was dropped off at the Church Mouse.
"I think for 38 years someone was just taking care of it for me," he said. "If anyone knows where this thing has been, I'd just die to know."
Anyone who knows the story of the missing sculpture can contact Kurt Krauthamer at firstname.lastname@example.org.