I recently saw an exhibit of work by Joe Fafard at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (the day before it ended, naturally). It was truly delightful, and I wondered what it is that makes his work so attractive. It might be a romantic thing city-dwellers have for farm animals, but then again, there’s nothing romanticized about his cows and horses. Even when they are stylized, they are never made to look unnaturally cute or pretty— unlike the ducks that seemed to be everywhere on kitchenware and ceramics in the ’80s. I heard someone say that anyone who’s ever been acquainted with real live ducks would not find them all that cute.
Fafard’s animals are characters, that’s what they are. Whether they are smaller or larger than life-size, flattened cutouts or three-dimensional, they are not generic; they are definite characters.
The same is true of his ceramic figures of people. They are much smaller than most of his animal sculptures and, except for oversized hands, quite lifelike. My husband looked at a figure called “King,” of a man in a baseball cap and work boots lounging in a chair, and said, “That one must have been a real character.”