More about the “PLOWHORSE in the FIELD”: The Fafard Field Project…

Last Saturday’s Phoblog had this photo…

I used this image not really thinking much about it except that I thought this work of art was amazing.


The Fafard Field Project.

However, I didn’t really take the time to consider what I was seeing…

I mean, at first I thought it was a crop circle of some kind.

But, it isn’t…

It is a crop DESIGN.

It was carved out of a field, it was GROWN INTO  a field.

There’s a difference.

And I loved it even more once I realized what I was viewing!

It is a crop DESIGN

It is a crop DESIGN



Several of you readers from Canada knew exactly what this was and sent the articles to me.  Thank you!

This crop design is called ‘The Fafard Field Project’.  Fafard was the artist.  MacLaren Art Centre sponsored the feat and Roy Hickling was the farmer.  Of course, it took a lot more people to make this happen… but those were the key players.

This amazing idea/art project was created in conjunction with the 1997 International Plowing March Committee.



Here is an article from the website.

Click to go to the original article

Click to go to the original article

“A draft horse of wheat with a background of corn, canola, soybeans and alfalfa.” There it is, simple as that – a description of the project underway by the MacLaren Art Centre this summer in Barrie, Ontario in conjunction with the 1997 International Plowing Match. The primary players: the MacLaren’s director William Moore, Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard and a local farmer Roy Hickling acting as curator and project co-ordinator. Those weren’t the only ones of course; there was the International Plowing Match Committee, the engineering students from Georgian College who surveyed the image on the field, the farmers who did the actual field work, the people from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank who will ultimately receive and distribute the harvest and then pilots and photographers and others working in countless areas over the span of this project which began even before Joe Fafard laid hand to paper in August 1996, and will conclude in September 1997 with the International Plowing Match.
There’s another player too. He’s the horse Joe Fafard called into being, willed into space, conjured from heart and mind and earth and seed, no less poignant an image than Michaelangelo’s finger to finger painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Who’s to say, after all, where spirit resides? Look at the image first put down on the field, 1,100 by 1,900 feet – the work measured in the dimensions of painting and not agriculture. The horse, 1,400 feet long, nose to tail, possibly the largest drawing ever done. It’s an image so delicate, so barely there that it had to have been inscribed by an exhalation of breath. This is the fall of 1996 and no growth is apparent. The second photograph shifts planes entirely. No longer laid down on a field, it must be a wall painting from the tomb of an Assyrian king. Then the snow falls and the image is a pentimento, the erasure of white incomplete, the shadow reading through the white covering.
In the spring the growth begins, tentative and green. Tillage equipment gives the horse’s frame the support he needs; a tiny red machine picks its course around the horse’s feet, no bigger than a fly buzzing his belly. The green is filling in and now the horse is a fresco from the 14th century, and Giotto comes to mind. The horse’s eye is incised and his ears prick forward with willingness and interest. The tiller’s lines in the earth are gestural and I’m reminded once again of Fafard’s unerring sense of scale. His familiarity with this subject and the honour he shows it are particularly evident in his attention to the muzzle – line of the soft closed lips, a profound quiet only a horse owns – and in the lift and delicacy of the nostril. As the vegetation becomes more dense the horse darkens, his coat suggesting a handsome bay and tricks of wind and aerial photography have him striding out a little, stretching his neck, warming, finding his way to the ground.
Now the canola is in flower and it shows first as an erratic crayon line filling in colour around his muzzle. Horse is a spectacle, an astonishing visual gift apprehended by chance by travellers on a lucky flight path or by intent for those lifted in a hot air balloon on site or wound into the air on the Ferris wheel set up for the Project within range of the field. In the way that only animals do, the horse retains his equanimity, well-placed, beautifully conceived, thorough and consistent in his being.
I look at these photographs and I remember an early body of work by Manitoba artist Don Reichert who took his own aerial photographs and with them made art. I think of the starkly graphic black and white photographs by Mario Giacomelli, of a terrain not ours – smaller and hilly and worked and reworked, generations of farmers’ inscriptions on the Italian landscape and I think of Jim Dine’s work on the walls of the Kunstverein Ludwigsburg in Germany, nine ceiling-high charcoal drawings done with the commitment and intensity with which he makes all his work, knowing that when the exhibition period ended six weeks later, rollers of white paint would obliterate his drawings and only memory and photographic documentation would remain – a pentimento more exacting, profound and elusive than even he usually seeks.
So it will be with the Fafard Field Project. When the growing season has passed Fafard will travel to Barrie, Ontario to the field where his horse has grown and now waits, green and patient. And Fafard, whose initial conception of the work, whose first drawing had to plan for and anticipate its organic conclusion, will draw the last line. With a tiller he’ll incise the horse’s harness which will show black against the green and yellow. The planting will be harvested and the project concluded.


On the site there is the Curator’s Photo Diary.

I looked through it and this  photo grabbed me.  I especially appreciated the caption next to it.

This was the image that caught my eye... it is an aerial view of  one leg.

This was the image that caught my eye… it is an aerial view of one leg.


Here is the caption that went with the photo above:

The aerial photos that Bob Douglas of Douglas Air took on this day are worth noting. Even though the wheat is quite green from the ground, from 1500′ it is just barely visible. The contrasts created by the cultivator (visible in the shot) really makes the horse stand out. There is a wet spot at the front leg giving us a perfectly formed hoof, something you couldn’t plan if you tried, and the textures that are just becoming visible in the wheat, suggest muscle and sinew.



There was also a weekly aerial photo journal… here are a few photos I pulled from there.












I figured that the artist, Joe Fafard, couldn’t always use a huge farm as his canvas… so I decided to look up his other work.

Here is his website.

Joe Fafard is one of Canada’s best known contemporary artists. Fafard’s sculpture has been widely exhibited in Canada as well as in the United States and Europe. His work is included in many public, corporate and private collections. The scope of Fafard’s work is exceptional. His numerous commissions have ranged from Bill Cosby to Cadillac Fairview’s seven full size cows The Pasture, located in downtown Toronto. His earlier painted ceramic sculpture depicted his neighbours, Canadian and international figures, and his ever popular cows and horses. A sense of Western Canada subtly haunts Fafard’s works. Works produced in bronze and other metals touch on everything from art history, to Canadian literature and political figures, to an abiding interest in images of farm animals. Fafard, who now resides in Regina, has received many awards, including the Order of Canada and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award.

Of course, I knew I’d like him – he has an abiding interest in farm animals, especially cows and horses!  Perfect!

Here are some of his works…


I wouldn't mind this guarding my barn...

I wouldn’t mind this guarding my barn…


Or this...

Or this…



I just love that someone thought of art in this way.  I love it, love it, love it!

Ingenious thinking from others makes me feel totally flat brained (on the one hand)… but that kind of thinking also totally stimulates me and makes me so appreciate those who thought of this.

Delightful and Amazing!




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2 comments have been posted...

  1. Mary Lu Kennedy

    I received my Spam Guard report this morning and I found all of my Horse and Man emails included. I corrected the settings so should be ok.

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