Farrar Wilson, abstract painter of radiant geometries whose large fields expressed his love of nature and color, movement and space, died on May 23 in Sacramento. He was 81.|
The cause was complications of emphysema, said his partner and companion, Judith Foosaner.
Farrar was often called a painter's painter, well known in the Bay Area where he lived and taught for many years. From the time he was a young man, painting was his passion and his pursuit.
Farrar was born on January 31, 1930 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. When he was two, the family moved to Denver, Colorado where he attended school. He joined the US Navy in 1948, served for a year then began a BFA Program at the University of Colorado, graduating in 1954 after a second stint in the Navy. He lived in California for a time, painting and working on construction, then moved to Champaign-Urbana to begin and complete the MFA Program at the University of Illinois.
Farrar married Joanne Ike in 1957. There was a time as an Artist in Residence at the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa, a year in Mexico with Joanne and their two young daughters and another year in Norway on a Fulbright. In 1965, he accepted a position at San Jose State College where he taught in the Art Department for 23 years. His marriage to Joanne ended in 1970. In 1973, her returned to Mexico to live and work. A second marriage to Margarita Zarco from Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico ended in divorce.
From 1954 until the last year of his life, Farrar continued to work and to exhibit internationally. His work was reviewed, respected and collected. He did what he wanted to do.
In 1981, Farrar met Judith Foosaner, also a painter, who became his partner and companion for the rest of his life. They lived in the Bay Area for many years, briefly in London and, in the last ten years, Sacramento.
Painting was his dailiness. In Sacramento, he worked in a large, squarish studio with high ceilings. Its windows faced north. Covered with canvas in the lower reaches, the exposed upper windows gave him a constantly changing vista of trees and skies. Although he referred to his paintings as abstraction, landscape was a continuous presence in his work. He had a drawing table that combined with a desk, a trolley for his paint and his brushes. In the tall bookcases that lined some of the walls were his books and his music. He lived upstairs in a modest flat filled with very little furniture and very many paintings. Classical music was a constant.
Farrar's work was poetry. Often dark and always quiet, it was brooding and melancholic, complex, joyous and evocative.
He was a splendid painter and a splendid teacher. To the last weeks of his life, he received messages of gratitude and appreciation from former students and collectors.
He was a splendid man; modest, gentle, kind , decent and caring. He was adventurous and inquisitive. He loved going camping and fishing with his daughters and grandsons and visiting them in San Jose and London. In a long, rich 30 year relationship with Judith Foosaner, there was an occasional time out, but they never stopped loving each other. He loved animals and was devoted to Chloe and Moose, Grizz, Phoebe, Lucky, Toshi, Bagel and Martin-rescue dogs and cats whom he and Judith adopted over the years. He was full of fun with a fabulous sense of the absurd. Deeply spiritual, but not a believer, he was an advocate and an activist for social justice and change. Never a joiner, when he was 80, he did sign on with Atheists United.
In the last year of his life, Farrar moved to an assisted living facility just blocks from his home. He had a small apartment on the fourth floor with a sliding glass door which opened to a balcony. From his balcony perch, he could see across to the trees and down to the street below. The houses on the street were wonderful and he often said that one looked as if it had arrived out of a painting by Morandi. He had an ancient and hideous chair-a Laz-y Boy recliner that he hauled from one studio to another. The color was no longer identifiable, the back sagged and was rent by countless feline visitors. He loved that chair. In his apartment, the chair was positioned near the bed and next to the balcony where Farrar would watch the constant parade of passers-by and breathe in the beauty of the trees and the skies. He would do his crosswords, read his books, listen to his music and receive his friends. Reflecting on his life, he said that he had no regrets and that he felt he'd done "a good job." He did. He did a very good job.
On the evening of May 23, Farrar died in his chair.
He is mourned and survived by Judith Foosaner, his life's companion, daughters Leslie Rutherford and Jody Smith and grandsons Eric, Nicholas and Matthew as well as his many friends and his dear dog, Chloe.
The chair now resides in Judith's studio.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 12, 2011