Audrey Farina and Richard Gill met in an art gallery in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. They were both sculptors — he in copper, she in ceramics.
“We were both on tour with our art,” said Gill. “Her work was wonderful — I was enamored by it.”
As it turns out, they were enamored with each other. They packed up Gill’s motor home and hitched Farina’s Volkswagen to the rear and headed west. When they broke down in New Orleans, they didn’t have enough money to fix the engine.
“Audrey looked around for the finest shop she could find and loaded her art work in a garbage bag,” said Gill. “The shop bought every bit of it, and we were back on the road.”
When they arrived in Lake Tahoe, Audrey got a job teaching ceramics for the King’s Beach recreation department, which gave her access to a kiln. That enabled her to again build up a body of work. Eventually, they saved enough to buy a piece of property.
“When first we drove through Nevada City, we thought, ‘What a neat little town,’” said Gill. “We never left.”
In 1988, Farina and Gill purchased 5 acres in Nevada City. In keeping with their priorities, they built an art studio first — then a house.
For the decades that followed, the two sculptors worked happily in tandem at opposite ends of their studio. Gill would occasionally go on tour to perform in his solo “Medicine Man Show” at fairs around the country, and Farina had her work shown in galleries in such cities as Sedona, Ariz., Tallahassee, Fla., and Ft. Bragg — as well as Nevada City’s own Mowen Solinsky Gallery.
But three years ago, Farina and Gill were hit with unsettling news. Farina was diagnosed with liver cancer and soon began enrolling in medical trials and exploring alternative treatment.
“One of the first things Audrey did when she learned she had cancer was to loan her signature piece of art to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital to be on display in the oncology department,” said Gill. “It’s probably the biggest piece she’s ever done — she thought people going through treatment might find serenity in it.”
When Farina first created the sculpture, she and Gill had to drive the fragile work of art to a large kiln in Placerville, said Gill. It took 24 hours to fire.
“It was like birthing a baby — this was one of her favorites,” he added. “It speaks to you. It’s called ‘Song of Origins.’ It has no purpose but to inspire and be admired. It has no holes for flowers. The meaning is different for everyone.”
On Nov. 19, Farina succumbed to her three-year battle with cancer. She was 77. “Song of Origins” remains on display in the hospital’s cancer wing. Underneath the sculpture is a statement written by Farina: “To all my brothers and sisters who face this overwhelming challenge. May we survive and thrive.”
When neighbor, 30-year friend and fellow artist Gene Kirchner saw the ambulance driving past his house last Tuesday, he knew the news wasn’t good.
“We shared a love of art,” he said. “Audrey, Richard and I have always swapped our art between our houses so we can admire each other’s work. Audrey was full of life and love. When I found out she was gone, I told Richard, ‘I don’t know what to say except I love you and I’m always here for you.’”
On Sunday, Gill opened up his studio for friends and family to gather, talk, share memories and admire Farina’s art work. He called it “a closure.”
“Audrey’s life was all about art,” said Amanda Paoletti, owner and director of Artists’ Studio in the Foothills. “She was an incredibly giving spirit. She was always looking for an opportunity to give, and that was usually through art.”
Although Gill, now 85, is mourning what he deems “a one-night stand that lasted 35 years,” he has no plans of leaving their 5-acre hilltop.
“Would I give up seeing this view over the Yuba Canyon every day? No way,” he said. “It will be a bit lonely for a while, but I’ve got my studio, I’m still creating art, and I have my family of critters that live in the woods nearby. You’ve just got to get used to a whole new way of life.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at email@example.com or call 530-477-4203.
“Audrey’s life was all about art. She was an incredibly giving spirit. She was always looking for an opportunity to give, and that was usually through art.”
on the life of artist Audrey Farina