Given his own ties to the Prairies, it should come as no surprise that Joe Fafard would bring a slice of rural life to Toronto. The sculptor was born in the small town of Ste-Marthe-Rocanville, Saskatchewan, in 1942. After graduating from the University of Manitoba (BFA, 1966) and Penn State (MFA, 1968), he began work as a kinetic sculptor. He switched to plaster upon his appointment to the University of Saskatchewan later that year, eventually moving into plaster portraiture around 1972. He then transitioned into bronze in 1985, just in time to win the commission to create an installation for the IBM Tower courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Centre.
Fafard’s folk art style has won him a large international following. He has exhibited his works in the United States, Great Britain, France and Japan. Closer to home, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981; awarded the Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award in 1987; received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2002; received the National Prix Montfort in 2003 and the Lieutenant Governor’s Saskatchewan Centennial Medal for the Arts in 2005. He has also been honoured with degrees from the University of Regina in 1989, and from the University of Manitoba in 2007. A major retrospective of his work was hosted by the National Art Gallery in Ottawa in 2008. It remains in his mind his most cherished accolade.
Joe Fafard continues to be one of Canada’s leading sculptors, continuing to work in multiple media from his studio in Regina. He hasn’t created a new piece of public art that I can locate since he installed Claudia (La vache) at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 2003. Here’s hoping he will find the time to grace us with more oases of the serene in the years to come.