Passings - Linda Fairfield

Linda Fairfield, a Winnipeg artist whose elegant demeanour belied her gifts as a wise-cracking dame, has died at the age of 77. She was MAWA’s 19th member, joining the organization on December 13, 1984. She remained active in MAWA for 32 years, and in June of 2016 she taught MAWA’s sold-out Botanicals Workshop.

Fairfield was an accomplished Mahjong player, gourmet cook and painter of flora and fauna. A thorough naturalist, she kept found specimens of birds and small mammals in her freezer next to bundt cakes and almond soup. However, she is best known as an exquisite illustrator of Manitoba botanicals. For four months each summer, she retreated to her cottage at Delta Beach where her goal was to create paintings of each plant species in Manitoba, hundreds of which she could identify by name, on sight. She described the creative process as intense: “I have to get into a deep meditative state to make each tiny stroke of the brush or pencil perfect before the plant starts to wilt.” Many of her illustrations can be found in the Manitoba Museum’s guide, Wildflowers of Churchill. For years, her celebrated botanicals held pride of place at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory café. Fairfield called her diverse body of work The Garden.

After earning her Interior Design degree at the University of Manitoba in the 1960s, Fairfield and her husband Les Stechesen moved to England for a year. Upon their return, Fairfield began to teach generations of students the art of architectural rendering at her alma mater. A dedicated volunteer, Fairfield was twice on the Board of Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, and was a founding member of the Save the Eaton’s Building Coalition and Women in the Arts. Many cultural groups benefitted from her financial and artistic donations. Throughout the years she was a regular attendee of Camp Wannakumbac “Art Camp” at Clear Lake and in 2013 she was a mentor in MAWA/Manitoba Arts Network’s Rural Arts Mentorship Program in the Interlake.

In recent years, Fairfield worked on documenting and appraising her impressive oeuvre of botanicals. Her dream was to build herself a wing on the Pavilion Gallery, “so there would be at least one woman who isn’t a teenager with little boobies pointing to the sky among all those wrinkly old men!”

Linda Fairfield continued to teach and paint until the end of her life. She was surprised and angry at her final diagnosis, and in her typical wry and refined manner said “Phooey” to the disease that took her. She will remain funny, beautiful and inspiring in our memories: a mentor, friend and artist.

–Bev Pike