I find it timely that while this Bill is being presented to Parliament, a new permanent work of art featuring running horses has been installed just down the road from Canada's Parliament Buildings, on Sussex Drive outside the National Gallery of Canada. Our Prime Minister and our Governor General will have to pass this sculpture each time they leave their residences. I hope these beautiful images will have a positive impact on Bill C-322. :-)
Joe Fafard has fonder childhood memories of horses, which is why you can drive up Sussex Drive and see the Saskatchewan artist's running herd installed outside the National Gallery of Canada's main entrance. There are 11 horses, and they are beautiful and graceful, just like the ones Fafard remembers from so many years ago.
"When I was a kid, I went to a country school," Fafard said this week, sitting on a bench just inside the gallery, where he had come for one day to check on the installation. "In the wintertime a lot of farmers just turned out their horses on the prairie, and the school was on the prairie, so a herd of horses formed that lived on the snow, and ate the prairie grass through the snow. We could even, during class, observe a herd of horses of all types, of all colours. In the spring, the farmers would come and collect their horses."
That quote will not surprise anyone familiar with Fafard's work. Since he finished university in the 1960s, his art has been a testament to animals, nature, the environment and those farmers and country folk who are most closely in tune with the land around them.
Over the decades he has worked in clay and bronze and on paper - a recent sale of prints at Jean-Claude Bergeron Gallery in Ottawa was reportedly a great success - and, in later years, in steel.
His images of cows have become a sort of trademark, though the rest of the barnyard also gets its due. None are more spectacular, more purely invigorating to see, than his running horses.
The herd is laser-cut from sheets of steel and painted in earthy tones that, especially at this time of year, bring to mind the autumn leaves.
Each horse has its own pedestal outside the National Gallery, on an island of gravel (there'll be greenery come spring) next to the entrance ramp to the parking garage. Tens of thousands of people will pass daily, by foot or pedal or car, and perhaps take a moment to consider, as Fafard puts it, "a magnificent creature that has few needs, not like a human that has all kinds of needs."
The sculptures were purchased in 2007, with funding provided by patrons of the National Gallery Foundation. The horses' new home outdoors expands the gallery's sculpture park - the "precinct of beauty," as gallery director Marc Mayer recently labelled it.
Jim Hart's totem pole The Three Watchmen was erected two weeks ago where Sussex meets St. Patrick Street; Roxy Paine's bare, steel One Hundred Foot Line, stands nearer the Ottawa River; Louise Bourgeois' extraordinarily popular spider Maman is only metres away. It and Fafard's horses now flank both sides of the gallery's main en-trance.
"I feel really good," Fafard said, in that soft, unassuming voice, as he looked through the gallery's glass walls to the horses outside. "I hope that having people see something that gives them some awe for a fellow creature can translate into some care for the environment."