Honourary Doctor of Letters - Spring 2012
Joe Fafard is an extraordinary visual artist whose national reputation was confirmed by a highly successful travelling exhibition of his work mounted in 2007 by the Mackenzie Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada and accompanied by a full-scale biography, Joe Fafard, by curator Terrence Heath. In the Foreword to Joe Fafard, the gallery directors write: “Remarkably, the appeal of his work crosses the lines that often divide our society: urban and rural, French and English, east and west, elite and popular". The exhibition’s iconic sculpture, Running Horses, five laser cut steel units, was purchased by the National Gallery for the gallery grounds. In 2010, two identical sets of eight running horses, life-size die-cut steel sculptures, were created as sister installations for the cities of Quebec and Calgary.
Public sculptures by Joe Fafard can be seen across the country. In Toronto, seven larger than-life bronze cows rest on the grass outside the Toronto Dominion Centre. On the U of S campus is Bonnie Bucklyvie, an 8.5 foot bronze cut-out horse.
In the early 1970’s, much of his sculpture used clay as a medium. In 1985, he shifted to bronze as his chief sculptural medium. His insight and humor characterize his portraits of neighbors, farm animals, wildlife, and famous artists that he came to respect as he learned his craft. His work in bronze is displayed across Canada and his "cows" have become one of his trademarks. Some say that Joe Fafard adds a sense of humor to his depiction of the everyday through his artwork; Joe says that he never really took it out...
Most recently, Joe Fafard was chosen to be honored by Canada Post in the “Art Canada” services of postage stamps. Three of his artworks are featured on the domestic Canadian, USA, and International stamps.
Joe Fafard’s life and work are deeply rooted in Saskatchewan, family, and rural life. He was born to French-Canadian parents in the agricultural community of Ste. Marthe, SK. He attended the University of Manitoba (B.F.A) and Pennsylvania State University (M.F.A). He was at the U of S in Regina from 1968-1974 and visiting lecturer at the University of California at Davis in 1980-1981.
In 1981 Mr. Fafard was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. He has been awarded the Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award, Honorary Degrees from the University of Regina and the University of Manitoba, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit; the National Prix Montfort, the Lieutenant Governor’s Saskatchewan Centennial Medal for the Arts, was named CTV Citizen of the Year, and the Saskatchewan Arts Board Lifetime Achievement Award.
As a creator, educator and builder, Joe Fafard has left a pronounced mark on the cultural well-being of Canada. A tireless promoter of artists and institutions that foster and promote the arts, he is a leader by example.