Regional Artist Magnetizes Growing Fans from Ranching Communities


Abena Songbird

Black Hills regional artist Dede Farrar shows work from her recent show “Animal Attraction” at the Dahl Art Gallery.

Abena Songbird, Contributing Writer

A dynamic exhibit recently concluded at The Dahl Art Center, “Animal Attraction”, which featured the work of South Dakota artist, Dede Farrar.

Her latest pieces drew a growing number of fans gained over the past three years from the region – ranchers, animal lovers, and those who appreciate her signature vivid, abstract landscapes.

Her paintings depict the close relationships between people and their working animals, pets and wildlife.

“I have an interesting group who like my work,” said Farrar. “They like seeing the subject matter — it’s not completely abstract but representational. They enjoy seeing a little bit different style than they are used to seeing my style which I call, “Contemporary Impressionism.a��”

Two attendees of the Dahl reception expressed their enjoyment of Farrar’s use of working dogs.

“I like how she pairs the dogs with the sheep — and people that work,” said horse breeder/rancher Gary Hoffman.

Hoffman and his friend, Kathy McDaniel, decided to attend the reception which also coincided with a Humane Society fundraiser for The Oglala Pet Project, a non-profit group based on the Pine Ridge reservation.

“I think her work is very vibrant, colorful — it’s the textures of the paintings — you want to run your fingers over them,” McDaniel said.

Her favorite reminded her of the stock show’s sheep-herding trials in Rapid City. The painting looked very much like a normal sheep-herding border collie, McDaniel stated.

“I just truly like to see how she depicts the relationship between the dogs and animal — or just the normal farm animal,” McDaniel said. “She has the ability to capture the true essence of the animal, and how they actually look — their reactions, their movements.”

Farrar’s inspiration for the show owes much to social media. People send her reference photos over the internet which turn into her vibrant paintings.

“I have been most successful using Facebook as my gallery and forum,” she said. “People watch what I do on Facebook.”

Last summer she did a painting of her dog, Tiger, in Nugget Gulch. A woman in Florida was watching her page. “People seem to like the way I paint dogs,” said Farrar.

In January, she finished a large commissioned piece for the woman – a 30 x 40-inch painting — and sent it to Florida.

According to Jayne Rose, Marketing Manager of the Matthews, Farrar’s use of color is “whimsical” and sets her apart from other Black Hills artists.

“You can see the love she has for all animals, ranging from pets, working farm animals, and wildlife,” Rose said. Gallery and Events Manager Ava Sauter also added, “Dede’s work has character. Her paintings have a way of grabbing your attention- telling a story. It has been a joy having her work in the gallery.”

Farrar created a Facebook page and her “fans” she said, are women, in their 40s’ 60s, who see in her a fearless passion. As a former child protection worker on the Pine Ridge, she has been accused of being “selfish” to dedicate her life with such focused purpose, to her art. She doesn’t have children — just her animals — two adopted adult cats, “Spartacus and “Paris” and her Catahoula Leopard dog, “Tiger.”

“Life is not complete without pets in my world,” she said.

Farrar really likes the Rapid City Stock Show — the stock dog people who have the border collies herding sheep. “It really nurtures my art,” said Farrar. “They really care about their dogs and livestock,” she said.

She also meets a lot of people when she attends to takes pictures of the dogs/events and shares them with posts on Facebook — for fans who might want a commissioned work.

She will soon go on sabbatical to travel for new inspiration in Wyoming — visiting shows and seeing what the state offers. Farrar said she will keep her ear open for “Calls for Artists”, will continue to do her commissioned art on Facebook (a significant part of her income), and her mental health counseling, as a South Dakota licensed professional counselor — limiting her clients, so she can do her art business.

Farrar said, “I’ll keep making paintings — branch out on subject matter — keep doing animals, but throw in a landscape once and awhile.”