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Acclaimed Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard honoured in celebration of life

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Acclaimed Saskatchewan artist honoured in celebration of life
WATCH: To this day, his retrospective exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery is the most highly attended event in its history. Now that gallery is paying tribute to the legacy of Joe Fafard with a celebration honouring his life. Katelyn Wilson has more – May 5, 2019

On Sunday, hundreds gathered at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina to celebrate the life of acclaimed Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard, who passed away from cancer on March 16, 2019.

Fafard was 76 years old.

“He’s an inspiration to generations of artists,” said executive director of the Mackenzie Art Gallery, Anthony Kiendl. “For over 60 years, he was a leader of the arts in Saskatchewan and in Canada.

“What he did really successfully was to show you could have an international art career and still work in Saskatchewan.”

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Considered one of the country’s leading visual artists, his sculptures are the kind that can be easily recognized. The inspiration behind much of his work comes from the prairies and whether his subjects were people or animals, he’s perhaps best known for his cows.

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“His art is very sophisticated and yet so easy to relate to, and I think it was his ability to capture individual personalities of animals that is really remarkable,” Kiendl said.

Fafard’s work spans over five decades and his displays can be seen in downtown Regina, across Canada and around the world.

“He loved working, that was his favourite thing to do — he was never going to retire. If he had 20 more years there would be 20 more years of work,” his son Joël Fafard said. “His greatest desire was to make art that anyone could relate to. This is all still so raw, its emotional to see these pieces and have the memories of him working on them — but I’m so glad we will always have that.”

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Among his many honours are the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, the Order of Canada and numerous honourary doctorates.

“He’s irreplaceable and he will be dearly missed,” Kiendl said.

As the saying goes, do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. For Fafard it’s part of his legacy, making art a part of every day life.

To this day, his retrospective exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery is the most highly-attended event in the gallery’s history.

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