Joe Fafard, a twelfth generation Canadian, is a sculptor best known for creating objects which take as muse, and pay homage to, his community and farm life. He is equally well know for his intricate sculptures of individuals, be they artists, writers, theorists, politicians, strangers or friends. His career has boldly blazed a path for the reinvigoration of sculpture in the Canadian contemporary art scene.
"I can't put a finger on what compels me to make these things, but I keep doing it anyway. Well, it is a good way to live and make a living. I'm quite happy about it!"
Born into a French Canadian family of farmers in the French speaking community of Sainte-Marthe Fafard showed a keen interest in art from a young age. After receiving encouragement from his family, and high school teachers, Fafard entered formal art studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in 1966. He then went on to complete a Masters of Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University. During this time he took advantage of his close proximity to New York City traveling often to the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, and the Museum of Modern Art. In 1968 he switched from student to teacher delivering courses in sculpture and pottery at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina campus. It was during this time that his colleague David Gilhooly inspired him to explore ceramics as a medium for artistic expression. In 1974 he left teaching, and settled in Pense Saskatchewan and began life as a full-time sculptor. He returned to teaching briefly during the winter of 1980-81 as a visiting lecturer in sculpture at the University of California at Davis.
Fafard's career took a major shift in the early 1980's when he came across the Toronto Dominion Bank's call of proposals for a new public art installation. The commission, which he won, propelled Fafard into a new phase of creation with a new medium, bronze. Through the process of casting his winning sculptures in bronze Fafard met Pierre Lheritier and Jack Harmon, both of whom would encourage, inspire and educate him in the process of bronze casting. In 1985 Fafard opened his own foundry, Julienne Atelier, Inc., in Pense, Saskatchewan.
Over the years Fafard has had several documentaries produced on him and his work. When the earliest production, the 1973 film produced by the National Film Board of Canada I Don't Have to Work that Big, was screened on the CBC it catapulted the young Fafard into the national spotlight and it is there where he has remained. Whether he draws his inspiration from the animal kingdom, Silvers, or fellow artists Cézanne, Fafard's sculptures hold within them a quiet dignity and strength which continues to amaze and capture the public's attention.
Fafard was awarded the Order of Canada in 1981, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award in 1987, and a year later he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Regina. Mr. Fafard was presented with the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2002.