In Maria Farmer’s “FBI diagram,” dead sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is in a flying saucer, Ghislaine Maxwell is a bloodthirsty reptile, and a pantsless Alan Dershowitz is shushing victims underneath a tree of poisoned apples.
“I’m going to be working on a series all about the elites,” Farmer told The Daily Beast of her whimsical painting, a depiction of heaven and hell that features Les Wexner, the former chairman of Limited Brands and an Epstein associate, as the head of a snake. “As someone who’s been hurt by these people, I can translate it in a way that people can see.”
Farmer, 50, is believed to be the first victim to report Epstein to police. She says Epstein and Maxwell assaulted her at Wexner’s Ohio estate, where she stayed in the summer of 1996 while working on an art project. (Wexner has denied knowing Farmer.) She later learned that Maxwell had allegedly assaulted her underage sister, Annie, at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch. In a recent court filing, Maxwell has denied these accusations.
According to Farmer, Maxwell threatened her and worked to destroy her reputation in New York’s art scene after the alleged incident. The young painter fled the city, leaving a promising art career behind. “I was terrified of Maxwell and Epstein and I moved a number of times to try to hide from them,” Farmer stated in an affidavit filed last year, when her story became public for the first time. Months after the court filing, Epstein would be dead. At age 66, the financier killed himself in a Manhattan jail as he awaited trial on child-sex trafficking charges.
Farmer says she stayed under the radar for 24 years, feeling her life was in danger because of the politically connected pair. She swapped high art for quietly selling antiques and restoring old houses across the southeast.
Now Farmer is creating again in earnest, drawing pastel portraits of Epstein's victims and painting fantastical scenes taking aim at what she refers to as “the elites,” or the socialites and dignitaries who turned a blind eye to the perverted wealth manager's abuse.
But while Farmer advocates for victims, she’s also battling two forms of cancer, which she believes are ultimately the result of the trauma she experienced at the hands of Epstein and Maxwell years ago.
Just before Farmer came forward in April 2019, she was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor—a diagnosis that followed years of unsolved health issues and troubling symptoms, which included losing her hearing in one ear.
“When I first found out that I have a brain tumor, I saw all the things I didn’t get to do because I’ve been in hiding,” Farmer said. “When I got the diagnosis, I started seeing a wedding, a baby, a group of friends, all the things I’ve been deprived of. All the paintings, the gallery openings, the things that never happened.”
“I got really angry, and that’s when I filed the affidavit.”
This year, Farmer was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is expected to begin chemotherapy at the end of the week.
Other victims of Epstein who've bonded with each other since his July 2019 arrest, including Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Marijke Chartouni, launched a GoFundMe page to support Farmer’s cancer treatments. The site raised more than $43,000 in less than two weeks.
For Chartouni, the flood of donations has been emotional and overwhelming. “She is a fighter,” Chartouni said of Farmer. “And people are really stepping up for her and saying something needs to happen. By supporting her, they’re saying what happened isn’t okay and justice needs to be served, too.”
Giuffre said that she and her fellow “survivor sisters” have become a family; they rally around one another when times are hard. “We have this united struggle for the search for justice,” Giuffre told The Daily Beast. “We need to keep Maria in the fight.”
Farmer’s accusations became public in an April 2019 affidavit, which was attached to a defamation suit Giuffre filed against Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who helped secure Epstein’s shady plea agreement in Florida. (In the document, Farmer says she witnessed Dershowitz visit Epstein’s Manhattan mansion “a number of times” and go upstairs where minor girls were present.)
Dershowitz has denied Farmer’s claims. Last year, he told The Daily Beast: “Maria Farmer stopped working for Epstein before I ever met Epstein. It’s a totally perjured affidavit. It’s all totally made up. For her lawyers to submit these obviously perjured affidavits raises serious questions about their role in this case.”
The artist and her family spoke to Vanity Fair about Epstein’s abuse of underage girls back in 2003, but their story was axed from writer Vicky Ward’s profile of the mysterious hedge-funder. Editor Graydon Carter later claimed the reporting didn’t meet the outlet’s legal standards, though Ward said Carter bowed to pushback from Epstein. (Both Ward and Carter are pictured at the roots of the tree of deadly apples in Farmer's latest painting.)
Her sister, Annie Farmer, said that seeing the way people have rallied around Maria has been “a healing experience” for her family.
“She had a singular vision for her life more than anyone,” Annie Farmer told The Daily Beast. “Going back and looking at her journals—even as a small child, she was writing about being a painter in New York.”
“My whole life I grew up knowing her as an artist. It’s been hard to see her away from that passion. Seeing her reconnect with that, and seeing people respond to the emotion and power of her work is really gratifying,” Annie added.
Maria is facing her biggest battle for her health, and the additional support through the GoFundMe means a lot, the sibling said. “Every time she sees people who have written words of support and been so generous, it has really buoyed her spirits, I think, and made her feel cared for,” Annie said.
Annie said her sister returned to art in recent years, after meeting longtime victims’ lawyer Brad Edwards. She feels lucky to be in on Maria’s process.
“It’s been really exciting to see her work take off in a new direction recently. As she’s taking on the themes of the battles she’s been fighting, it’s showing up in her work,” Annie continued. “It’s definitely a departure in style in some ways. She’s allowing herself to be more free … All the color and all the scale. It’s pulling together so many different aspects of her experiences and the things she cares about.”
On her website, Maria says, “After a 20 year sabbatical of sorts, I’ve returned with a series about the seemingly impossible. After my experiences of the NYC ‘elites,’ I recognize that anything is possible! This consideration broadened my mind and made me reassess ‘fantasy’ vs ‘reality.’”
She’s completed surgeries and radiation while continuing to paint and speak out on Twitter and in interviews with “alternative media” YouTube personalities. She is drawing stunning portraits of fellow victims, and giving them to the women as gifts. “I’m never going to draw socialites again unless I'm making fun of them,” Farmer quipped.
Meanwhile, she hopes to unveil some older pieces—called “The Open Secret” and sketched after her time at Wexner’s estate—at an exhibition post COVID-19. Those images of abused young women are “voyeuristic,” Farmer says. “They’re quiet and soft and painful.”
“The Setiles,” her playful and biting landscape depicting the glitterati linked to Epstein, was inspired by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” a 15th century triptych oil painting. Her version also illustrates victims’ lawyers who fought for justice.
The title was inspired by a friend who is writing a sci-fi novel. “Instead of elites, why don’t you just call them setiles?” the confidant asked. Farmer clarified to us: “It’s like elites but switching the letters around.”
Scrawled above Farmer’s 7-foot-wide painting are the words “FBI Diagram.”
“I wanted to do it from a child’s viewpoint,” Farmer said. “What I’m really doing is saying: FBI, if you can’t follow this, you can’t follow what a child would draw.”
“Even though I have two types of cancer, I have to speak out because the FBI won’t do their job,” she added, referring to her 1996 phone call to federal authorities reporting Epstein’s abuse.
A decade later, she says, federal agents came to visit her when the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami probed Epstein, but nothing seemed to come of it.
In the painting, Epstein looks out from a flying saucer because “I wouldn’t have been surprised if Epstein went up in a spaceship,” Farmer said. “He almost got away with this.”
“This is about corruption at a much higher level, and he was just one of the pawns,” Farmer added. The drawing emphasizes “the absurdity of the fact that they let him go for so long.”
Maxwell is inside a giant plastic bubble, attached to which is a “property of FBI” tag. Asked why the heiress was portrayed as a lizard in pearls who bit the head off a schoolgirl, Farmer said, “She only has a reptilian brain. She doesn’t care about what happens to anybody.”
“I’m looking at the French Revolution drawings of that era,” Farmer added. “They’re comedic. You don’t get too wrapped up in the gore.” (To that end, Farmer says her “Setiles” series will include future works, like “The Seven Deadly Sins of Silicon Valley” and “Pedowood,” about pedophiles in Hollywood.)
In the skies are Farmer’s attorneys, including Sigrid McCawley and Edwards, who are painted as cherubs. Edwards touches a floating paintbrush, since he encouraged her to pursue art again. Because, she says, he was an advocate when Epstein’s exploitation of children didn’t provoke national outrage. “It was very unpopular to care about us and he cared anyway,” she said.
“I needed to know it was OK to paint again,” Farmer said. “Ghislaine Maxwell and Elaine Guggenheim chased me away from the arts… and ruined my life.”
Farmer was a student at the New York Academy of Art when she met Epstein. Guggenheim, then the dean of students, introduced her to the creepy financier. According to Farmer, Guggenheim forced her to sell Epstein her work titled “The Rape,” at a discount and ignored her claims about Epstein’s sexual abuse.
A petition was recently launched demanding the academy remove Guggenheim as chair of the board of trustees. For her part, Guggenheim has denied Farmer’s accusations. (Guggenheim has said she’s “distantly related” to the art-collecting family behind the Guggenheim Museum.)
“I very specifically called her from the Wexner estate and told her all these horrible things that happened to me,” Farmer told The Daily Beast, “and she hung up on me.”
UPDATE: After this story was published, Jim Walden, a representative for a law firm hired by the New York Academy of Art to investigate Farmer’s accusations, provided The Daily Beast with a statement contesting Farmer’s claims. “In a world where people’s lives and reputations can be forever ruined by untested allegations, it is not ‘victim blaming’ to hold people—even the victims of crime—accountable for their words,” Walden said. “Here, without taking away from Ms. Farmer’s terrible experiences with Epstein, her allegations against the Academy and Ms. Guggenheim are false, and the record in this regard is quite clear.
“The investigation into allegations related to the New York Academy of Art and Eileen Guggenheim included interviews with over 20 witnesses (former and current Academy board members, Academy staff and former Academy students), review of emails and hard copy documents, and extensive searches of social media sites,” said Walden, of the firm Walden Macht & Haran. “My firm was given full authority to follow the facts no matter where they led, and we did. Through its review of documentary evidence and witness testimony, the investigation found that Ms. Guggenheim did not introduce Ms. Farmer to Epstein, that Ms. Guggenheim played no role in Ms. Farmer’s decision to sell one of her paintings to him, and that Ms. Farmer did not in report sexual abuse to Ms. Guggenheim in 1995-96. The investigation discovered sworn testimony in federal court by Ms. Farmer stating that she independently agreed to sell Epstein a painting.”