My history with Joe goes back to 1970 when we were both hired as professors of art at the University of Regina. We were a lot younger back then and we both had long black hair and full beards. We dressed in jeans and often wore colourful striped t-shirts. We looked like your stereotypical artists and some people around Regina had difficulty telling us apart.
“We are all richer for experiencing the power of Joe’s work in our midst.”
I remember standing at a checkout counter and being approached by a prominent Regina resident. She said, “I was in Toronto recently, Joe, and enjoyed seeing your herd of prairie cows on the lawn at the TD Centre. What a terrific installation in the financial district.” Occasionally I would just nod and graciously accept the praise on Joe’s behalf. Most times I would say, “Thank you for compliment. I’ll pass it on to Joe next time I see him.”
We both received catalogues from a prominent auction house conducting an auction of the Bronfman art collection. Several of Joe’s bronze animals were being auctioned off. Also included in the collection and attributed to Joe were my bronze tables. I phoned the auction house and asked: “Do you ever turn a work over to check for a signature? Just because the plums on my table look like goat testicles doesn’t mean it’s Joe’s work.” We laughed, and Joe signed the catalogues as Joe Cicansky while I signed Vic Fafard.
We didn’t buy into abstract expression, the current art fashion of the time, or the fundamentalist aesthetic taught in most art schools. We were independent. We created art from our own life experiences: Joe created animals and people; and I created garden vegetables and gardeners. Our careers blossomed. Joe’s more so.
Joe’s achievements are numerous and familiar to all of us who have been touched and inspired by his work. Joe is not just any Joe. He’s Joe intensified: intensified by his passion to make expressive and powerful sculptures and intensified by his gift to excite a wide audience of art lovers with his sculptures of people, cows, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and more.
Many of the ideas that Joe has developed for decades are summarized in his landscape sculpture, Le jardin de l’esprit (Mind’s Garden), on the south shore of Wascana Lake. This sculpture is in the University of Regina President’s art collection and visited by walkers in the park. We are all richer for experiencing the power of Joe’s work in our midst.
Victor Cicansky BA’67
Member of the Order of Canada