Dolly 1998 (Left)
Pepper 1998 (Right)
From the time Joe Fafard began to draw upon his own life and environment for subject matter and inspiration, a constant of his art has been cattle: cows, bulls, calves. He admits to being addicted to making them and, despite attempts to quit, says all this has ever done is make him uptight.
Fafard relates that this animal is a form of exercise that keeps the basics limber and the imagination in shape. Unlike human portraiture, where peculiarities of individual personality and situation must be addressed, Fafard approaches the cow as an inherently neutral abstract form with which he feels he can be almost automatically free and experimental in the examination of formal concerns: mass, weight, scale, proportion, volume, surface, color, etc.
He has made hundreds upon hundreds of cows. He has made them in miniature and larger than life size. He has made them with verisimilitude that is stunning but has also twisted and pulled them into a wide range of shapes and attitudes.
It is difficult to imagine how such fascination and freshness of vision could be sustained through the production of so many of these creatures, over such a long period, without a more complex and personal attachment and meaning.
Joe Fafard, Cows and Other Luminaries, 1977-1987, Matthew Teitelbaum & Peter White, 1987