Joe Fafard in his studio, December 2018. Photo courtesy of Gary Robins / Available Light Photographics and Design
Nationally and internationally acclaimed artist, Joe Fafard, was born September 2, 1942 to French-Canadian parents in the small agricultural community of Ste. Marthe, Saskatchewan and passed away peacefully at home on his farm near Lumsden on March 16th, 2019.
Joe attended the University of Manitoba (BFA 1966) and Pennsylvania State University (MFA 1968). He was at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina from 1968–1974 and visiting lecturer at the University of California at Davis in 1980-1981. During his lifetime, Joe Fafard was a distinguished full-time artist and sculptor who lived his entire life on the Canadian Prairie.
Mr. Fafard was one of Canada’s leading professional visual artists and has exhibitions of a wide variety of work in galleries and museums across the country and around the world, including the United States, Great Britain, France and Japan. He is widely recognized as having been at the forefront of his art, and his outstanding contributions to the arts have significantly raised the profile of both Saskatchewan and Canada on the national stage.
Joe was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981; awarded the Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award in 1987; received an honorary degree from the University of Regina in 1989, and from the University of Manitoba in 2007; received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2002; received the National Prix Montfort in 2003; received the Lieutenant Governor’s Saskatchewan Centennial Medal for the Arts in 2005; was named CTV Citizen of the Year in 2006; and the Saskatchewan Arts Board Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Joe Fafard also received his third honorary doctorate degree from the University of Saskatchewan in June of 2012.
"I try things, rather than just repeating the thing that has already proven successful. I take the attitude that I’m like a scientist who wants to experiment and discover things and dig out the truth." – Joe Fafard
Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was the touring retrospective exhibition, hosted by six different venues, from September 2007 through September 2009, jointly organized by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina. However, most recently, Joe Fafard was chosen to be honoured by Canada Post in their “Art Canada” series of postage stamps, released February 23, 2012. Three of his artworks are featured on the domestic Canadian stamps, the USA stamps and the International stamps.
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, successfully establishing a foundry in Pense. His insight and humour characterized his portraits of neighbours, 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 became one of his trademarks. Some say that Joe Fafard added a sense of humour to his depictions of the everyday through his artwork; Joe said that he just never really took it out.