Friends in the art worlds in Miami, Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles took to social media to mourn the death of one of their own: Wynwood artist Sky Farrell.
Farrell, a mixed-media collage artist, photographer and painter, died Tuesday in a New York hospital at age 28, said artist friend Dax Rudnak of Atlanta.
The cause of death was not released Thursday.
“She was hospitalized Saturday or Sunday,” said mural and graffiti artist Rudnak, who also writes the blog, @SnortThis, under the name Dr. Dax. “Her mother said it was not looking good. It’s devastating. Even beside being talented, she was a hell of an energy. She demanded attention in a room and everyone knew her. She was a socialite and not just in one city. Everybody knew her. She was a strong personality.
“She sold paintings of mine and involved me in large art projects in New York and Miami and helped guide me to make my art career better,” Rudnak said.
A representative for Los Angeles’ Known Gallery, which had exhibited her work, emailed the Miami Herald Thursday: “She was a dear friend and an amazing person filled with beauty.”
Farrell was born to Jean Farrell and the late Wes Farrell, a popular songwriter in the 1960s and ‘70s whose co-writing credits included The McCoys’ 1965 chart-topper Hang On Sloopy, Boys, a B-side the Beatles had Ringo Starr sing on the group’s 1963 debut album, and nearly 30 songs for the Partridge Family in the early ’70s such as the group’s TV sitcom theme, C’mon Get Happy. Farrell died in Coconut Grove in 1996 at 56.
His daughter worked on her father’s publishing after his death but she carved a niche for herself as an artist, using print images to form collages. Her slogan on her LinkedIn profile was emblazoned in caps: “Print is anything but dead.”
Some of her higher profile commissions included an installation for Spin magazine for its 25th anniversary and Interview magazine for its 40th. For the Spin soiree, at New York’s Terminal 5, Farrell crafted a 100-foot mural incorporating images from the magazine’s covers to hang in an entrance.
“I was brought up around music, it's my first passion,” Farrell said in a Spin feature about the occasion. “I've surrounded my life with the history of music. Art is my second passion. I create new, original pieces from famous and influential photographs. I was excited when Spin asked me to do this 100-foot mural. To be able to merge both my passions at such a large scale was a dream come true.”
Farrell also created large-scale murals and installations on the walls of the Fontainebleau Hotel’s former nightclub Arkadia when it opened in 2010.
“Ever since I could remember I was fascinated by collecting, searching and devouring pop culture and historically influential vintage magazines and books,” she said in an interview on the Rad Collector blog. “I looked at reading and attaining my now vast archives of iconic imagery as if they were textbooks in my school of life. Primarily my work is its own interpretation of mixed media curated pieces that revisit iconic photographs, eras, retro pop culture, music and my favorite influences.”
Some of these inspirations included rockers Elton John, Blondie and Lou Reed, photographers Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Beard and Helmut Newton, and provocateurs Andy Warhol and Timothy Leary. An Instagram photo features Farrell in a blond wig at a recent Blondie concert as she paid homage to its iconic lead singer, Deborah Harry. “She was sooo happy dressing retro for this, from her sparkly eyelashes, sequin top, to her shoes. What a great time we had! She loved her Blondie,” a friend posted under the picture.
It was at the Arkadia opening that Farrell met developer Michael Capponi , of The Capponi Group, who had handled the venue’s construction.
“We just clicked immediately,” Capponi said Thursday. “She was a special soul.”
After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Capponi made the first of many ongoing humanitarian visits to the island. For one of his fundraisers, Farrell created a piece using printed photographs Capponi had taken on his first trip to Haiti and, along with Romero Britto and other local artists, she donated the work.
“That piece was very sacred,” Capponi said. “The following year she did some other pieces and donated them.”
But there were problems. The Florida Department of Corrections lists an arrest report in Fort Lauderdale in Dec. 2011. Farrell was under administrative probation, set to terminate in Feb.2016, for three offenses — possession of controlled substances.
“Extremely sensitive people, they absorb everything and they usually need a source or outlet to put that back out — either an art form or something and that was her expression,” said Capponi, who said he did not know how she died. “She was extremely keen on life and it’s a double-edged sword. The typical artist is always suffering, the Kurt Cobains, you see it over and over in extremely sensitive people. That’s why they leave us with these gifts. There’s nothing you can do but look more carefully at the art she created and embody it and make it forever lasting.”